The Big Ones are Really Big

On March 11th, 2011 at 2:45pm, I remember talking to my friends about the song Viva la Vida by Coldplay. I can also remember the ground shaking; my thought was simple: agh, another earthquake.

After a minute of staying under the table, I realized that the earthquake was longer than usual. After another 4 minutes – or what seemed like forever – the shaking stopped. I was in Tokyo, in the Shibuya ward. Although I was able to arrive at home after 5 hours of being stuck in traffic, I couldn’t sleep without wearing my running gear and placing a bag with water, food, toiletries, and a sleeping gear near me – just in case an aftershock required an evacuation.

As a Japanese student who experienced the earthquake in real time, reading the article brought back negative memories from that day. I thought the article does really well in trying to inform readers about the dangers of earthquakes. Shulz recounts the experience of a person who was in Tokyo on 3.11 and she gives a brief summary of the simulated earthquake in Cascadia. One information that she gives: that the Cascadia region hasn’t had a devastating earthquake in 315 years and the cycle is roughly 243 years, adds onto the fear of earthquake that is probably already accumulating in the readers’ mind.

You can live through larger than 7.0 magnitude earthquakes – as long as the building doesn’t collapse on you, as it did not on March 11. Most of the buildings that were struck the hardest, even the skyscrapers in the cities, were able to stay standing because of the specific way the buildings have to be built. There are a few things that have been engraved into children in Japan: even if the house is on the verge of collapsing, it is remember to open the door, go under the desk, if not, go to the bathroom (the walls are thicker there). Sit in between a couch and a wall (makes a triangle that could hold off weight), turn off gas (to stop the risk of a fire), listen for tsunami and liquefaction alerts etc.

Tsunamis are unavoidable; the few that survived were the youth that were able to pick the right building as a safe haven, clang onto dear life by a tree, or climbed onto floating objects and were found by the SDF. Watching cars with drivers in them being swallowed by waves on live car TV was horrific.

Shulz’s description about the destructive nature and effects of earthquakes and tsunamis provide enough information to create awareness about what they could do, and why we should be prepared for it. Hopefully, the Cascadia earthquake wouldn’t hit for another 100 years or so.

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