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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.


Sylvia

Comments

misssylviadrake
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.)

Best,

Donald E. Stahl

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