California, the whole West Coast actually, is Earthquake country. And I remember my first “big” quake like it was yesterday. Switzerland is not exactly know for quakes, so I have to admit I had a certain childish anticipation.
It was my second year in Los Angeles. Two of my roommates and I were sitting in front of Diddy Riese’s cookie store in Westwood, enjoying cookies and ice cream and watching people go by. The storefront had a big window with a row of chairs outside. It was a nice and mild Sunday.
All of a sudden there was a huge rumbling noise. I thought at first it was a big truck. My two roommates, both from Mexico, jumped out of their chairs like they had just be stung by bees. I was still not getting it! I looked down at the sidewalk, which was kind of cobble stone looking and noticed the rock plates moving up and down and sideways. Then my chair started to wobble. That’s when it hit me! Earthquake!!!
I shot up and joined my roommates out on the street. They were nervously looking at the big window front. I asked them what the matter was and they told me that they were worried about the window breaking from the quake. There was another smaller rumble, a jolt and the whole thing was over. The whole thing lasted maybe 10 or 15 seconds. It felt unreal!
The quake turned out to be a 5.1 on the Richter scale. Quite a bit stronger than the usual 2 point somethings. I kept seeing those stones move in my mind’s eye. It was quite freaky. But the most unsettling thing about the experience was the sound of the quake to me. I talked about it for days. I finally knew what a quake felt like. Well, sort of!
Since then I have experienced many more quakes. All were smaller than that one in Westwood that day. I am used to the sensation now. I just really don’t want to experience the Big One!