Sunday, January 17, 2010

Earthquake Ready Mom?

After living through the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake and believing I was going to die, I run out when I feel an earthquake.  People say, "Don't run out of a building, get under furniture..." I say, "Look at Haiti and get out!"

This past August I was living in an old 1950 apartment while our remodel was being finished.  I was standing near the door, my three kids all within 20 feet from me; on the couch, in the bathroom and laying on a bed reading when I felt the familiar feeling in my bones as the earthquake began to shake our first floor unit.  Inches from the knob to our front door, I slowly put my hands on a bookshelf as the shaking started shouting as loud as I could, "It's an earthquake...GET OUT!"

I then reached for the knob, turned it and ran out away from the building.  My five year old daughter, Meg was at my heels, my other two...?  Where were they?  I stood on the driveway, safe from anything falling shouting, "Ty!  Roc!!  Get out!!"  Nothing. 

When the shaking stopped, I went back in to see my three year old Roc in a bundle still on the couch and Ty standing in the bedroom doorway shocked asking, "Where did you go?"

I answered, "Ah....I went out there."  I pointed to the driveway.

Ty, "You left us?"

I was embarrassed.  I failed. 

I was sick.  Did I really leave my other two kids?  How could I do that?  What horrible mother was I?  Friends told stories of how they dashed up stairs to collect all their kids...threw their bodies on top of children on a bed....and I left mine all behind in a building. 

I tried to re-imagine the event in my head, trying to re-do the event and imagine myself staying.  Ha!  Each time, even my imagination won't let me.  I'm always leaving.  I imagine a fire; I know I'd run though flames, I'd crawl through smoke.  I imagine a gunman; I know I'd offer my life first.  But an earthquake?  I'm out.  My brain won't let me change my internal programming: Every man for himself.

Then I realized, "Wait...if our building fell down, who would be out here directing the firemen on where to find my kids alive?  If I stayed inside with my kids and the building fell, we could all perish.   See?  I didn't do a bad thing leaving, I did a good thing."

Ty rolled his eyes, "Whatever.  All I know is you left us."

Yes.  Okay.  Now that we know this....we need to prepare.  We know Mom won't be here for you if the earth starts shaking.  Your job?  Get out.  Fast and safe.  We now have drills on where to run depending on what room you are in when a quake hits.  (I say 'when,' because one is always coming, this is Los Angeles, we just don't know when.)  My kids just go through the motions as I kick their bed back and forth pretending I'm the earthquake.  They sometimes even laugh, but the bottom line is that their minds have stored this information on what to do, so that when it happens they will find that rolodex card in their brain and react properly.

No 'Mommy of the Year' award this year.

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