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Dear friends and readers,

As you may know, we experienced an earthquake on the east coast of the US, epicenter Mineral, Virginia: 5.8 or 9 on the rictor scale.  Yvette has told me of "tiny" earthquakes at Sweet Briar during the years she was in college there (middle Va). It seems there are very very old faults in the area of Va where the Appalachian mountains were first thrown up. It's thought this one was along these faultlines and I've included a comment from a friend on a list detailing the facts.

We live in Alexandria, not far from DC and not that far from this epicenter. It felt like we were in the line coming from this place, the fault.  The quake began with the porch and I thought maybe outside there was some heavy-duty truck doing something, But as the quake spread across the room and it began to rock, I realized no, and then when the book poured out of two bookcases against one wall, with the top flung across the room, it came to me. Earthquake.

So it was a line. First the porch began to shake, then my chair (I rocked) which is just beyond the porch inside the house, and the room I was in seemed to rock in one line and those bookcases on one wall of this room by this invisible line emptied. The rest of the house stayed firm until the back when a bookcase also let's say next to this line or on it emptied out and fell.

I don't know why but I didn't feel fear so much as puzzle and then realizing remembered we were supposed to run out so I did. Then I thought about money :). Pragmatic. I worried the house was somehow seriously hurt but it appears not so. I don't remember if I have said here we have a house that is on a cement slab with no ups or down. Flat. Imagine two more or less squarish rectangle boxes on this slab stuck together in a sort of line. That's our house. Each room has two outside walls, each outside wall a big window affair. In the front a screened porch. The second rectangle is were the bedrooms, my workroom and bathrooms are, again along a sort of corridor that bends in this rounding way.

It's a Frank Lloyd Wright sort of house. It was built by a man named Joseph Beach who really meant to imitate Wright. (Many of these houses have been utterly "spoilt" but ours is close to what it originally was.) It is intended to look as if it's rising from the ground. It's sort of damp -- or was until I put some insulation in about 15 years ago. (Some people have "sump pumps" but they are very expensive to put in; I was told I would have to build a basement so forget that.)

In the front area is this central round thing of furnace/air conditioning on one side of a wall (it's in the kitchen), fireplace on the other (this front room I was in) with fat wall between and holding up the roof and leading to to a heavy heavy chimney thing with big mantelpiece. (Dumb young couple next to us with far too much money wanting to modernize this actually took down part of this arrangement and their house was in danger; they had to rush and get someone in to rebuild this central piece.) I spend my life going round in circles from front room to hall into kitchen area and round to dining room and round to front room again. We have Frank Lloyd Wright closets -- awful, very unpractical but chidren and cats love them because they have a bottom kind of corridor underneath -- great for hiding, great for toys.

So it's a sound firm house and Ivette's room, my study, the side of the house where the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms are stayed steady. A few books flung here and there.

The cats suffered. They hid for hours. We didn't know where they were for a while. The male stayed in the back cowering in a corner and the female whimpered under the bed. They had been terrified by the books and the shaking. Gradually they moved out and then stayed in Yvette's room. You could see how upset they were because the boy would not let me pick him up. He insisted on jumping out of my arms and jumping to the other side of the room and then staring askance at me.  When later I went into my room to watch Prime Suspect, he came and made the most pathetic mews I've heard from him so far. High-pitched yet softly groaning moans. He's usually in his pod by this time at night; right now I 've no idea where he is. They did not come out for their supper.

And the truth is the books are going to be no fun tomorrow. It was only 3 and 1/2 cases. I put one wholly back -- not a big one. But still in our front room where we felt it most we now have several stacks, and 4 books wide and waist high of books in alphabetical groups ("m's, n's, o's, p's, a section of r's and s's).

We did have a book tragedy. High up a set of books were flung across the room and these included an ancient 2 volume Moy Thomas edition of Lady Mary Montagu's letters. Fell utterly into pieces which were flung about, the pages fell into separate signatures, and they are ruined. I threw the volumes out.
Very sad. They were a mid-19th century set, and had poetry by Lady Mary I didn't have in any other form.

It was exciting to see on the TV and since no one appears to have been hurt, let alone killed, no major building or bridge fallen.  One wit on a blog posted a picture of his garden chairs and table on a green lawn with the table and 3 chairs fine. One has fallen over. The line: earthquake devastates east coast.  One friend emailed me to say in mock-excited tones how his coffee cup was turned over as he was typing on his computer.  True, people were joking quickly, and in Alexandria and DC it seems not to have been as bad as the excited voices suggested (or maybe didn't suggest for they were not grave), but it was not nothing.  There were some spires off the Washington Cathedrale, a gargoyle here, or some buttress there, though no harm done to people in DC.  Mineral, Virginia some people suffered damages and some houses were badly hurt. People interviewed included a few who had experienced fear and trauma in the buildings they found themselves.

The admiral did say he felt an intense surge of adrenaline. I lost a day's work and oddly began to relax as I couldn't carry on my reading and had to work at returning the house to normalcy. Yvette and Caroline tweeted one another to see that one another were safe.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
From the Pentagon's website:
The earthquake occurred at a depth of about 1 kilometer, about 27 miles east of Charlottesville, 34 miles southwest of Fredericksburg and 39 miles northwest of Richmond, all in Virginia.

The last time a magnitude 5.9 earthquake happened in Virginia was in Giles County, near Blacksburg, in May 1897, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Though it's not as well known as the San Andreas seismic zone in California, there is a seismic zone in central Virginia. The nearest tectonic plate boundaries, which tend to generate large and more frequent earthquakes, are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea, USGS officials said.

The central Virginia seismic zone has known faults, officials added, but probably has many undetected smaller and deeply buried faults. Because of these faults, people in central Virginia have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from a few larger ones since at least 1774, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
In 1875, a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck in the central Virginia zone. Every year or two, smaller earthquakes happen in the region.
East Coast earthquakes are less frequent than West Coast temblors, but they tend to be shallower, and therefore, they can be felt over a larger region, USGS officials said.

East of the Rocky Mountains, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as 10 times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the West Coast. Today's magnitude 5.9 earthquake could be felt as far away as Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts."

Thanks to Bob on Trollope19thCStudies

Edited at 2011-08-24 11:40 am (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
Just FYI, I have been in a sea of books for years, not because of an earthquake, but because the walls are full. (No cats.)


Donald E. Stahl
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
We've actually something like 43 bookcases in our house, over 8000 books. We love our lives in our house.

Aug. 25th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Joking a way of dealing with trauma
I think it's a natural way to release a combination of fear or apprehension and relief: our office is on the 28th floor, and for about ten seconds, it rose and fell as if it were at sea. Several of us, including me, thought for a second that it was ourselves experiencing a weird vertigo, but then it was clear that, well, no. Just the day before, we'd had an emergency drill, and someone asked, trying to be light-hearted: "So should we make for the stairs?" While waiting for an announcement, several people admitted to being scared. The safey assurance was broadcast by Security three times. By the third announcement, the jokes were coming thick and fast. My theory is that, generally, the broader or cruder the joke, the more scared or panicked the joker was during the incident (especially, of course, if the joker is a New Yorker, because, Heaven or earth forbid a little thing like an earthquake should get the better of him or her...). So I generally extend a little sympathy when I see or hear mockery after a trauma.

Incidentally, my cats seemed just fine; I've read that felines have a special antenna for earthquakes but yesterday morning, if my furbabies sen
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
The death of a book
Dear Ellen:

Took me awhile to figure out you were misssylviadrake. Any chance you could pick those destroyed volumes out of the trash. I do collages, including literary collages on occasion, and, in pieces, those pages would be valuable to me (and my students). I'd be happy to pay postage.

Off and running to school; didn't want to chance that the trash men come today to cart things off.

We felt the earthquake in Connecticut. Evacuations in city buildings. My cat, too, was freaked out, but did not have to contend with such drama as yours.

Best...and in hope for salvage,
Pit Pinegar
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
The death of a book
I"m off to GMU this morning. It might be. It depends on whether my husband took the trash out to the trucks since I put the stuff in the trash. It was very sad to put it all there. It is a total mess - pages are crumbling, and it's just in total pieces. They were flung head long across a room.

Back much much later today,
Ellen -- yes even though on principle I don't like _Gaudy Night_; probably Harriet Walters has something to do with my choice (an old one) too
Aug. 25th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
The death of a book
I have twice rebound a book. A beloved and useful French dictionary, my thesaurus which has been with me since I was 13. If I had money, I'd rebound my 1911 Britannia. I don't have it, but it is protected. It's in a kind of deep shelf.

Aug. 25th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
The death of a book
Alas. Thanks for checking. It's always sad when books die. I have a first edition of Helen Bannerman's stories written for her children in England when she was on assignment in colonial India with her husband, Little Black Sambo, not only being politically incorrect, but the least interesting of all the stories. The cover is long separated from the pages.
Aug. 25th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
The death of used bookstores
I found this book in one of those gigantic used bookshops that used to exist. I can't lament their loss without qualification as at the same time I got on line and am talking to you, and yet we have lost something precious. Books themselves are turned into fungible commodities people buy out of specific interest.

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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