April 19, 2008

An Open Letter To Those Shaken By An Earthquake

I don't know if they're still arguing about whether or not the New Madrid earthquake caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards in places. That earthquake happened a long time ago, and although its history is pretty well known, there's no recent experience of earthquake there in that part of the continental U.S. between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rockies to match the story of New Madrid. The current population literally has no idea, even following yesterday's earthquake centered in southern Illinois, and felt from Kansas City, Mo. to Nashville, from northern Michigan to Memphis, a huge swath of the middle of America, 120,000 square miles of it.

Those of us in the earthquake bearing lands of California greet you. Yeah, that's what we're talking about.

A 5.2 earthquake is a reputable earthquake by any measure. The "what was that?" of the 2.2, the swift surcease of the 3.6, the rude obstreperous stomp of the 4.5, all of these are surmounted by the authoratatively delivered rumble of the 5.2. We'll grant you that.

Still, It's been forty years since a bigger earthquake in the Middle West. Lots of Californians have at least five much bigger earthquakes on their life list; we have a claim to a much closer connection to the story of New Madrid on that score than people living where it happened, even after yesterday's event, reputable instance of an earthquake though it may be.

Nevertheless we stand with those shaken yesterday on the uncommon ground of our shared experience in that momentous instant of unsolidarity granted by an earthquake.

Earthquake! How about that, eh?

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