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Name: Georganna Hancock
Location: San Diego, California, United States

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Participatory Reporting

Pardon me while I indulge in reporting an event I witnessed yesterday.

San Diego, Cal. -- Much of the audience for Pirates of Penzance rushed out of the North Park Theater on Sunday, missing the end of the first act.  They'd felt the beginnings of the largest earthquake to hit southern California in the last 30 years.  For many, it was the strongest temblor they'd ever felt.  I was one of them.

As the guest of a couple of friends, I was watching the famous Gilbert and Sullivan extravaganza for the first time.  We sat in the back row (ground level) of the small recently restored theater built in the 1920s.  Those luxurious seats with great views were individual, comfortable chairs, not row seats. I had forgotten that tiny detail when I noticed the first jolt. I thought someone down the row shook it with laughter. When the movement continued, I glared at my host to my right, thinking he was the source, kicking my seat. He was oblivious, engrossed in the performance.

That's when I remembered I was sitting in a separate chair and thought I heard a vague roaring accompanying the repeated movements. I turned to my hostess on my left and asked, "Do you feel that?" She just gave me a blank look. I knew it was an earthquake; visions of the Haiti devastation flooded my brain. I feared the old building would fall apart and glanced up at the swaying golden chandeliers.  I pointed them out to my friend, but she just smiled and sat still.

Usually, earthquakes in southern California provide one or two jolts or the gentle rocking feeling of a wave passing beneath. By the time you realize what it is, it's over, too quickly even to get up from a chair.  This one kept on shaking.  About 15 seconds of movement prompted many other attendees to stand and head toward exits.

Despite the sensation of unreality, I thought, "Shit! This is the worst earthquake I've ever felt!"  I could not resist panic and urges to get out of a once crumbling structure.  When my hostess wouldn't move, I climbed over her and bolted down the empty row to join the growing crush at the doorway to the little lobby.

Outside, some claimed they could still feel the ground moving. I only felt myself shaking from fear and a wildly pounding heart.  We inanely discussed how we were not standing in a very safe spot, under a marquee, and everyone I heard said it was the biggest quake they'd ever experienced.  Most of them were seniors, including me, and many were natives.  A fire truck rumbled around from the back of the building, pulled into the street and headed east on a main thoroughfare, causing some wonderment. I was thankful its sirens were not blaring.

Fortunately it had been almost time for the intermission when people began to leave the hall.  My friends finally emerged.  We talked and I decided that if we were staying, I wanted a glass of wine to calm me.  There was no wine.  There was no little white pill in my purse, either. In a crisis, I am usually calm and clear-headed. I've never experienced a sudden scare continuing to affect me for so long afterwards. (Evaculation from the wildfire in 2003 was an extended, exhausting fright.) After the performance resumed, I felt a strong aftershock shake us again and cringed again, but it was just one jolt.
At this time on Monday (9 a.m., PT), we have had many more five-point-somethings, but not the six-pointer seismologists expected. As long as I live, I will never forget the Pirates of Penzance!

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Blogger ElizabethR said...

Geo, I'd have been scared too. I like to go to the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, but every time
I consider going I always think, but what if? And there have been so many reported bad quakes recently that
I'm thinking it can't be too long before that 'big' one they all keep talking about.

So glad you are all right,

9:22 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

So would you say it was a moving experience for you? (Sorry - couldn't resist.)

I felt one tiny earthquake in my life. I was sitting in western PA at my desk (naturally). I thought it was ice sliding off the roof, then I realized there was no ice on the roof. It was a weird sensation, but I didn't know it was an earthquake until I watched the news that night.

Glad you're safe. :)

5:34 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

I tried posting. Stupid Blogger ate my response.

5:34 AM  

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