Ack! Earthquake in Chile!…and I live here.

Sweet BeJeezus, that was scary!!

I’m not talking the “normal” kind of earthquake scary either … the kind I knew before today. After living in the SF Bay Area for over 29 years, I thought I was pretty accustomed to feeling the ground move every so often.

But no matter how accustomed you think you are … nothing prepares you for 2+ minutes of NON-STOP 8.8 ground movement and subsequent shaking, thundering, crashing and breaking that occurs with it.

Obviously we were in bed, G and I… and actually I had just gotten into bed after a bathroom break (TMI). I was commending myself and my dog for breaking the 3am barrier – i.e. the dog has stopped waking us up in the mornings whining from boredom. It was 3:15 am, baby was tired and we had a full day of wedding planning ahead of us…I closed my eyes, ready to enter my sweet lull.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand cue in the earth rolling … like riding a wave, I imagine. Except being from an earthquake zone (SF Bay Area) one always first determines if the quake is going to stay put or suddenly get all agro on you.
In the most abrasive of manners I jolt G up with “It’s an earthquake.” He sits up with me to proceed with the analysis: is this going to roll along like this or is this going get ugly?

OH. And then it truly got UUUUUUUUUUUUGLY. Now, mind you, at this point we’ve been rolling along with the wave for a good 30 seconds and as each 15-second interval ticked by, the once-rolling motion proceeded to turn into sharp movements, jolting us back and forth. We live on the 11th floor, the topmost floor of our building, and since buildings in Chile are “earthquake ready,” on the top floor you tend to feel each and every roll and jab TIMES TWENTY. And the thing is, the quake didn’t stop… it didn’t ease up or roll into a slow sweep… it not only kept going but it kept getting STRONGER AND STRONGER as each second, then MINUTE, ticked by. One by one I could hear things from other rooms crash to the floor; glass breaking, water splashing; thud, thud, crash, thud, shatter…and alongside those noises you hear the immense, RAW POWER of this monstrous earthquake that’s taking you on this SOOOOOO-unsolicited ride.

I was at the door frame, holding on until my fingers hurt … G was across from me in the bedroom holding our TV in place so that it wouldn’t fall on our puppy below (who by they way, was FREAKING OUT.) I remember thinking “it’s going to stop… it’s going to stop, it HAS TO STOP, it’s been so long” and realizing that the quake just kept going and going and getting stronger and stronger. At which point I seriously, cross-my-heart-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye thought to myself “Oh my God, I’m going to die in this earthquake. This building is going to fall and we’re going to die.” And NEVER, EVER have I had a thought like that, where for a second it was this peaceful-type realization that “this is it.”

And then, of course, thank God, it did stop. And that’s when the panic set in.

Our mom’s live in the next “comuna” over, each in her own apartment but in the same building. Once I realized we were ok, all I could think about was my mom and her insane fear of earthquakes … and the fact that she was alone. Quickly, G and I got dressed, grabbed the dog, ran down eleven flights of stairs IN THE DARK, dove into the car and raced through disabled stop lights to get to our moms’ homes. Our moms where upset, of course, but once we got there and everyone was gathered outside, there was a sense of security. Unfortunately that security didn’t lend itself to the other issue at hand: mobile phone connections and land lines were collapsed and G’s kids were outside Santiago with their mom. For more than two hours G tried to get through just to make sure his kids were ok–> and NOTHING. No calls were getting through. He finally decided to drive the hour and a half drive to where they were – not that he had clear directions on how to get there (he was working off memory). 40 minutes later he calls me to tell me that he can’t get through… the roads were closed due to collapsed overpass pedestrian walkways and crumbled pavement that ran for stretches at a time. I can’t imagine the torture he was going through not knowing if his kids were ok …and it was torture for me to know there was nothing I could do to help… [Update: his kids ARE ok and yes, he was able to talk to them. They’re shaken and freaked out, but ok.] In the end he came back to my mom’s apartment … by then, none of us had eaten for over 12 hours and we certainly hadn’t slept. But the sun was up. It was morning. Electricity was back at my mom’s house. Those three things combined brought some feeling of security back. So we packed up our dog, his things, my mom (who came over to help clean up) and we headed back home, ready to face the mess that we briefly saw on our way out at 4 am.

Considering how fierce the earthquake was and how intense it felt, I’m surprised we didn’t have more damage. At most we lost some cool picture frames. At best we have a crack going down the wall of our apartment’s foyer to forever remind us of this atrocious event. We have friends here in Chile who live waaaaaaaaaay higher up than we do and the damage to their apartments was far worse … not so much in terms of structure (like I said, Chilean buildings are “earthquake ready” thank God) but in terms of stuff thrown everywhere! We were spared, I think. In more ways than one.

The table in the front foyer, as you walk into the apartment. Plant and picture frames on the ground; area rug soaked. The crashing of this vase to the floor was not a welcome sound during the ‘rolling-with-the-homies’ episode.



The scene as we walked in to the dining room/living room area. Picture frames, meet the floor. Charmed, I’m sure.

This was a fun sight … our yet-to-be-thoroughly-paid tv toppled over. That’s the center table leaning in to kiss it hello. [Btw, we now know the tv is fine. And she’s ok!]



And my office… which actually, now that I think about it, kind of always looks like this. Maybe slightly less messy.

In the end, my review for “Earthquake Chile 2010” is a big, fat, thumbs down. Please don’t ever let me/us have to go through another 2.5 minute event that has us literally holding on for dear life. I’d like to take a “pass” on the aftershocks that continue to shake the city (and the country for that matter), most of which feel as if they’re 5-6 points, given how high up we are. But on the other hand, I was amazed at how the Chilean people came to one another’s aid in this crisis – even if it’s to merely ask “hey, how are you?” (Which, by the way, is precisely what our neighbors did after the shaking stopped.) There’s security in talking about what you went through and a feeling of safety in knowing that others went through the same thing. And I do have to say that the outpouring of concern and well wishers on my Facebook page was humbling. While I would rather never again have to go through what we went through at approximately 3:30 am Chilean time today, it serves to remind me how forever grateful I am… and in this case, I’m grateful that we survived.

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5 thoughts on “Ack! Earthquake in Chile!…and I live here.

  1. I´ve read some other blogger´s posts about the quake and each new account sends shivers up my spine. I can´t even imagine how terrified and in shock you guys must have been. I really don´t know how I would handle a situation like that!

    It´s definitely time for me to start reading up on earthquake safecty because, as Leigh mentioned, I have no idea if it´s better to go for the doorframe, duck under a table, or bold out of the building as fast as is humanly possible!

  2. I know… it's so hard to keep a straight head when stuff like this happens. I was always taught to duck and cover… then read about this "triangle of life" bit…then heard it was a hoax … in the end I think that you do what you can to keep safe when you're pressed for survival.
    Uuuuugh, what a horrible experience. :o(

  3. hey dre…'89 does not compare to what you and the family have just witnessed…and on the 11th floor?!?!?!?!
    Frames, glass-tables, etc. may be broken, but intangibles, like your spirit, family, and community (oh, and the debt-ridden flatscreen TV) sure looks like it is well intact 🙂
    It's gonna be a story to tell the grandkids.

    let the rebuilding begin…let us know if you need anything.

  4. wow. you had quite a bit of damage compared to my apartment. just a bookshelf knocked over, some picture frames on the ground, but nothing broken. i think that's why i thought the quake wasn't so bad after it was over, but i guess i'm just really lucky. i have three picture frames on my wall that didn't even fall off! i'm glad you are all okay!

  5. That sounds way scarier than what we experienced – especially poor G not knowing about his kids! That part sent shivers up my spine. And your poor decorated place all shaken up! I'm sorry it was such a scary time, but I'm glad you guys are ok and that aside from a picture frame or two your place is as well.

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