Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hell of a way to end the first day of a new job.

I must say that today was the most interesting first day of work I've ever had. While the job itself looks like it has a lot of promise and I will be able to help troubled middle-school students, that isn't what made it so eventful. The earthquake that registered around 6.0 on the Richter Scale at about 2:30 and shook the school as though God's freight train were passing by right next door made it unforgettable. The school where I will be teaching is near the Chesapeake Bay, and my new classroom is on the second floor. Coming from the Appalachian mountains, I certainly thought a train was passing nearby at first. However, where I'm at now, that isn't really possible. Having never truly experienced an earthquake, except for the one my first year of college at the College of Wooster in Ohio, I didn't know how I would react. I'd never really wondered either, but experiences such as these certainly give you insight upon self reflection. The earthquake in 1998 barely made me miss a step while walking down the dorm-room hallway. This one was quite different.

Things escalated, and the whole building began to shake and sway; rumbling terrain and buildings echoed in the distance. Then, vibrations began shaking the two-story building. While the screams of other teachers filled the tiled hallways, I found myself watching the building and the angry world with muted curiosity. I'm aware that many people have experienced earthquakes before and that they have even become common place in some parts of the world, but for me this was a first. The walls, ceiling, and floor began to creak and shake, squirming as they struggled to break free of the bolts and welded metal holding them captive. I couldn't tell if the deep rumbling sound was from the building or the earth itself, but it was as though something had angered the world. My feet remained planted squarely on the swaying floor. Afterward, the building swayed as I watched out the two large windows of my classroom. The trees were shaking wildly in the opposite direction, and I couldn't tell which was waving more, them, or the building I stood in. It felt like the minutes dragged on before it occurred that the building itself might not withstand such stresses. The school groaned and fought, enduring the waves of earth and soil like a large tanker frolicking in stormy seas, but never succumbing to the violent throws. Ultimately, the engineers who designed and built it are to thank.

When the shakes and groans had subsided, I could still hear the rumbling waves in the distance and feel the enraged throws of earth echoing through my feet. The building was still swaying like a mother rocking her child in a comforting embrace, but it seemed like the calm before the storm. What if another tremor came? I emerged from my room to check on the other teachers. My new classroom neighbor and I were ushered out by an administrator as the building was evacuated and the employees dismissed for the day to check on loved ones.

And so, I drove home past emergency vehicles while the radio DJ's criticized people for calling up worried and in hysterics. It was a day like no other and one I will never forget.