Monday, May 18, 2009


The magnitude 4.7 seismic event last night made me think back to an enrichment segment offered in middle school about earthquakes. It provided detailed information about everything from plate tectonics to interpreting the Richter Scale and different kinds of waves. My study of earthquakes until that point was limited to hiking the Earthquake Trail in Point Reyes, and having a second grade teacher say that in some very large number of years, Disneyland would be in San Francisco, because of movement along the fault. It sounded not so bad at the time. But the “expert” leading the mini-course felt inclined to pepper his lectures with comments like “the question isn’t ‘if’ the Big One will hit, but ‘when’.” He went into great detail about all the damage that would occur, the number of people that would be killed, and said that the side of the Golden Gate Bridge that was not on bedrock (I don’t remember which one) would collapse into the Bay. I stopped listening at that point. I was already a moderate hypochondriac; he made me an earthquake-phobe too. I was a nervous wreck driving across the Bridge, in underground parking garages, and I didn’t enjoy roller coasters anymore, because I spent the whole time worrying, what if we have an earthquake and the car gets derailed mid-corkscrew? Maybe it’s my over-sensitivity, but tempering this information with a discussion of risk analysis, or even foregoing the most sensational details to simply talk about disaster preparedness, to actually empower us, might have been a better way to go.

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