In case you missed it (it doesn’t seem to be much in the US news services), we had a good-sized earthquake yesterday. Saturday evening we had a 6.0 or 6.1 that wasn’t very dramatic, and that gave us a good chuckle when it was all over the news that a 3.6 had hit the Santa Barbara area (over the last 72 hours we’ve had 70 that strong or stronger). Then, the bigger one hit. The earthquake was more surreal than scary, the aftermath has been a huge window into Chilean culture, and the reality of what it means to live in a place where the earth can move like that (and worse than that) is sinking in.
Well, we’ve been through earthquakes before – both in Chile and Mexico. But the 6.9 magnitude quake (or 7.1 according to some reports) was a whole new thing. I was in the apartment when what felt like a big truck driving by crescendoed into way more. I could see the floor bouncing, the TV nearly fell off its stand, smaller items fell over, and Maya (the golden retriever) came sprinting to me. But the thing I hadn’t considered so much before was the noise. When an entire concrete building is shaking, the vibrations are huge, and vibrations make noise!
Johnny was downstairs in the apartment complex’s mini-gym. I went down to check on him, and he was coming up to check on me (and more importantly, check on Maya). We went out to the street (Amy & Mary Beth were out shopping at the time – a quick cell phone call confirmed they were OK). After a couple of minutes all the cell phones started blaring with these alarm sounds. Chile has tsunami warnings built into the mobile networks, and we were being instructed to head to higher ground. So, up the hill we went (with Maya, of course) and waited for the all clear.
The aftermath has showed us a lot. A few observations:
- Chile is a lot like Mexico in that the people immediately jump to dark (darkish) humor to process it. We’ve all seen the “4 out of 5 dentists prefer Crest” or some such thing. But did you know that 9 out of 10 catastrophes prefer Chile? Or a GIF of the “Bienvenidos a Chile” sign with everything shaking up and down. There’s even one of from the Matrix fighting Agent Smith – except Neo’s face is the Chilean flag, and Agent Smith’s punches are labeled tsunami, earthquake, and volcano. Or there’s the fake PSA directing ugly people to go to the coast and attractive people to seek out high ground.
- People have also been very kind and concerned about us. People from all spheres of life have checked on us to be sure we were OK. That so many people would be thinking of us and would care 1) that we were OK and 2) that as newcomers we were probably freaked out by what had just happened revealed a new side of Chileans to us. Most people have been very cordial with us, but this was a new level of kindness.
- The Chileans (who have lived through much, much more severe earthquakes) were very, very scared. Sometimes you don’t know how seriously to take things until you see how the seasoned experts react. This quake, though it didn’t do too much structural damage or to any (reported) loss of life.
So, now we live in a new reality. Or at least we’re beginning to understand more the reality of where we live. We are taking more precautions that previously we hadn’t given much thought to. And we are also, again, seeing that our lives really are in God’s hands. Psalm 46 tells us:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Those words take on new meaning today.