Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Earthshaking Start to the School Year in Virginia

By all accounts, central Virginia experienced 6.0 magnitude earthquake just minutes ago.  We sat here, on the day before school, making final preparations for school tomorrow when suddenly, the whole earth started shaking.  If you haven't figured out from the title of the blog, we literally teach underground.  We are two of six classrooms in the basement of our school.  We've grown used to an inordinate amount of movement and noise created in the basement from the World Language classes above, but it was quickly apparent that this time it was different.

It started out sounding like a cart rolling down the hall upstairs.  The volume grew until it sounded more like a train.  Within seconds, the normally solid floor of our basement began to shake.  Basement floors aren't supposed to shake.  I think that I might have actually ran into the hall at that point.  On my way out of the door, our department chair shoved me aside as he ran out screaming "everyman for himself," clutching his laptop and a set of whiteboard markers to his chest. (okay, maybe not, but he is that type of guy)

We exited to the breezeway of our building and after failing to find reassurance in the eyes of our fellow teachers, all eyes directed toward the sky.  Our 1980's upbringing took our minds to the possibility of a nuclear bomb.  The clear skies brought a reassurance that dismissed the scenes ingrained in our minds from a Cold War childhood.  Even after the earth stopped shaking, the metal handrail of the stairwell continued to vibrate, leaving little doubt that we'd just experienced an Earthquake.

Several co-workers had their children with them, obviously scared.  I was scared.  This will easily rate in the top three scary moments I've experienced in ten years of teaching.  The event is still fresh and we are all looking for details.  Still, we hope and pray that no one was hurt.  I estimate that we are at least forty miles from the epicenter.  I can only imagine if a 6.0 earthquake forty miles away shook Charlottesville, Virginia this hard how traumatic the experience of Haiti and other severe earthquakes of recent years.

We are thankful that we're safe, but we never expected the school year to start off like this.

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