In the aftermath of the Napa earthquake, it is inevitable. Whether it is friends who haven’t seen each other since BQ (before quake), strangers in the supermarket, or business people called out to fix this or that, the earthquake stories abound. A psychologist might say that talking about it is part of the healing.
On this occasion, it won’t be “what I was doing when it happened.” Except for extreme partiers and insomniacs, we were all asleep. The talk often starts with what it felt like and ranges from “it went on and on for 20 seconds” to “it was one blast that threw me out of the bed.” Different stories from different folks, even though neighbors. That is the nature of experience and memory.
Stories deal with the precious things lost — the lifetime Hummel collection, the souvenirs from foreign travel, the priceless family heirloom china. Except for those few who were seriously injured or whose homes suffered serious damage, outside the business community most of us say it was just stuff we can do without or that we can collect anew.
I had previous plans to be out of town the Monday AQ (after quake) so did all of my cleanup on one hellish Sunday, which goes down in my records as my longest and hardest physical workday ever. Being away in the mountains was actually a wonderful accidental benefit, as I was able to sleep, something which eludes me at home. Every creak of the house still makes me wonder if it’s happening again.
Almost a week AQ, I now walk around my home amazed at the things that didn’t fall and break. A treasured ceramic vase from Nicaragua sits on top of a six-foot high bookcase. The bookcase moved a couple of feet, but the books and vase remained in place. That’s amazing considering that another bookcase toppled over.
My everyday dishes are in a cabinet facing west. Nothing moved, although the surrounding cabinets spilled their messy contents all over the counters and floor. A large glass container of fake lemons is still on top of my china cabinet. It rolled onto its side, but stayed on top of the cabinet, which moved away from the wall and spilled dishes to the floor. My new TV stayed put in its cabinet, and the large glass vase on top, a gift from school parents, fell to its side with no breakage. The large empty pot by my front door fell over, but didn’t even roll down the steps.
Like many of my neighbors, I took this opportunity to throw out a lot of things I don’t need. All those magazines and catalogs I’ll never use went into the recycling. The nearly empty paint cans saved from every room in the house aren’t likely to be used again. Do I want to risk having them fall and spill in the future? I’ll be taking them to the hazardous waste site soon.
So, talk, friends and neighbors. Talk until you’re all talked out and your homes are back to normal and your kids aren’t afraid. Use writing, photos, or drawings to process what we’ve all been through. Help somebody who is in need. Donate food and money if you can. Long from now, Napa will be completely restored, but the storytelling will remain about the Quake of 2014.