Dancing to an Earthquake

The day after we arrived in the small Indiana town where I would graduate from high school, turned out to be memorable, in a semi-catastrophic sort of way. It was a Saturday, and my two younger sisters and I had been listening to American Bandstand, rating songs along with the show’s guests. It was 1968, a great era for rock & roll music, and we always watched the show to learn the latest dance steps. We were dancing to just about very tune, and laughingly discussing whether or not we would spend our hard-earned babysitting money to buy this or that record.

20140226-181857.jpgSuddenly, there was a deep rumbling sound, and the floor where we were dancing started vibrating. For a split second, which seemed like five minutes, we all just stood there in the middle of the living room, in front of the TV set. I stared at the screen, where everyone was still gyrating, oblivious to anything but the rock song that was playing. I thought maybe the gas furnace in the basement was getting ready to explode. I didn’t realize at the time that, if it had been the furnace, we would have been blown to smithereens, with absolutely no notice.

Just then, the rumbling became louder than the sound coming out of the TV. I could hear the windows rattling and I looked out the window, where I was startled to see, the lines on the telephone poles were bouncing up and down, and a couple of the poles were swaying back & forth.

It was at that precise moment that I realized we were in an earthquake. Suddenly, visions of Godzilla movies, with huge cracks opening up and swallowing everything for blocks—or miles even—came barreling into my mind. I was frozen with fear.

20140226-143608.jpgFrom somewhere inside the house, I heard my step-father shout, “Get outside!” I came up behind one of my sisters, who was standing in front of me, grabbed her by the shoulders, and pushed her towards the front door. “Get outside,” I repeated, and all three of us dove out the door, going into the front yard.

I could see bricks falling from the neighbor’s chimney, tumbling down from the roof onto the ground. I looked down the street, and the wires were still bouncing, but, as yet, there were no cracks opening up in the street. It never occurred to me that cracks could open up in our yard, I guess, because the Godzilla movies always showed them opening up in the streets, swallowing cars and buses.

My mom & step-dad had gotten two of my brothers and my third sister outside. But then, they realized that the baby was still in his crib in the center of the house, in the room with the chimney wall, in fact. So, my mom dashed back inside and retrieved my infant brother.

After what seemed like five minutes, but was only about ten to fifteen seconds, the rumbling and vibrating stopped. For a few seconds, everything was very still and quiet. Then, people started coming outside, or walking around their houses, to survey the damage.

Brick chimneys all over town were missing some or all of their bricks, but that was the extent of most of the damage. When we went back inside, American Bandstand was still playing, and all of the dancers on the program were still dancing, like nothing had happened.

I don’t remember learning any new dance routine that week, except maybe one called, “Run for Your Life, While Being Sure to Avoid Godzilla Movie-type Cracks in the Ground!”

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