Image: Inspecting Washington Monument crack inflicted by August 23rd earthquake by helicopter. The crack seems to signify a separation within the country currently. -GETTY IMAGES
Easterners from Boston to Sumter, South Carolina, from Toronto to Indiana were rattled Tuesday by a magnitude-5.8 earthquake centered in the state of Virginia. The quake was one of the most powerful since 1897 and matched the magnitude of a New York tremor back in 1944. There were three aftershocks according to the USGS (United States Geological Survey), ranging from 2.2 all the way to 4.8. Virginia Tech Professor of Geology James Spotila said, "east coast earthquakes tend to be more bang for the buck" than their more common west coast counterparts, as they can shake a vicinity up to ten times the area.
Here in Los Angeles and up the west coast, Twitter and Facebook feeds were ablaze with mocking sarcasm as hardened earthquake veterans gave a chuckle (myself among them) at their eastern brethren's expense.
"Dammit. I was hoping Snookie fell into the cracks from that 'massive' earthquake," said DeNae Dodge over her facebook status feed, just one of many 20-somethings deriding the (legitimate) fears of the easterners who are rarely subject to the quaking of earth that we in Los Angeles experience far more often.
"east coast newbs be trippin,'" read the post by Jen Jorgensen to the world wide web, a southern california native currently living in Brooklyn. From the urban dictionary:
A term used to describe a inexperienced gamer/person/etc. Unlike a noob, a newb is someone who actually wants to get better.
"jenn felt earthquakes before they were cool," was her fellow NYU student, Bud Intonato's reply, and gave me the idea to write this articly, editorial, bloggy-type thing.
One Los Angeleno I spoke to asked me why people on the east coast were so surprised and shocked by the quake. As he had not traveled much (when I asked if he'd been to the east coast, his response was "expletive no!"), I explained that they happen far more infrequently on that side of "the States."
"Oh. For us, it's normal," was his response. Exactly.
One meme posted by my cousin, Stephanie, who is living in DC after living in southern california for some time, displayed a cheap, white plastic outdoor set featuring a small table and 4 chairs, with one fallen onto its back, displaying "WE SHALL REBUILD." It's actually pretty hilarious, despite today's (August 24th, 2011, for those keeping track) news of the Washington Monument crack.
It's not that these jokes aren't funny (and only because no one was hurt), but we're getting a bit too far ahead of ourselves here. 99% of responses were of the joke variety, and fair enough. I love comedy. However, perhaps it's the arrogance arising once again. Perhaps it's not so healthy for us to be so comfortable with these destructive, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and extremely powerful natural events.
Los Angelenos, with memories of the hellish Northridge quake that shook the city's usually arrogant core back in 1994 fading just like the '87 Whittier Narrows and '71 San Fernando Valley quakes before it, sometimes forget what it's like to be on a high-level floor of a skyscraper during these intense geological events that often result in billions of dollars in damage and have killed millions of people. A Wall Street skyscraper was quivering like a "tuning fork," Mary Daley said to the Associated Free Press. Too jaded for our own good in Hollywood, the land of blockbuster action flicks with massive, loud explosions and brutal carnage that people spend millions to make and to see, we've forgotten the terror after going so long without a major earthquake.
Dubbed "The Big One," many researchers have predicted a massive (magnitude-8.1) earthquake along the San Andreas fault, which sits right under San Francisco and just north of downtown Los Angeles, saying it is "overdue," the pressure having built for over a decade along the San Andreas fault, the fault akin to a hard plastic fork bending to the point that it breaks. The next big earthquake on the west coast, really just another "big one" in a long line of major earthquakes around the world, could run from "Monterey County to the Salton Sea."
For whatever reason, be it a jaded sense of reality, depression of compassion, general disinterest, or fascination with destruction (whatever you want to call it), we fail to sympathize even with people in our own country, even as another terrifying, giant earthquake looms on our west coast's horizon. The time has long passed on "looking out for ourselves," alienating us (Americans, in general) from the world, or our fellow Americans in this case, as we do it. We have the capacity to feel sympathy for all of humanity, yet we continue to separate ourselves in reference to the whole. Maybe we, as human beings, really aren't ready for world peace. There are still too many jerks ruining it for the rest of us. I, for one, would still like to give it a shot.
I am Paul Tetu.