It hit at 2:27 a.m., the morning on Nov. 8, 1980 and lasted a full thirty seconds.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years, but I remember it like it was yesterday because I was certain my new bride and I were about to die. Not eventually, but now!
Okay, Eddie-boy. Out with it. What on God’s green Earth was “it"?
“It” was the horrifying 7.3 magnitude Humboldt County earthquake, centered just offshore of Eureka, where we’d just moved, no pun intended, following our Coronado wedding. Eureka!
Timing is everything! Mere moments before the terrible temblor hit home, I’d gotten out of bed to get a glass of water. When I threw open the sash to thrust my torso out the kitchen window for a bit of fresh air, I could see my breath. Brisk! All was quiet on that cold silent night.
Cold? In Eureka? Never mind.
Before returning to bed, I checked the time. As I hopped back into the sack, the clock read 2:27, but before my head hit the pillow all Hell broke loose. “It” was upon us with a vengeance!
When the ungodly shaking started, it was all I could do to literally bounce across our king-size bed, grab onto my dear wife, and hold on for dear life. The bed’s erratic rockin’ and rollin’ rivaled that surreal scene in “The Exorcist”. We were on an E-ticket ride to nowhere.
Folks often exaggerate an earthquake’s duration, claiming a two-second jolt had lasted a full
minute. Did I say the Eureka quake lasted thirty seconds? Believe it. It did. Yet all the things I’d been taught to do during an earthquake went right out the window because I believed we were both about to bite the big one. Several panicked heartbeats into its unholy reign of terror, I decided to give «it» a name. I called it “Mr. D,” as in Mister Death, or Mister Destruction, perhaps.
As geezers go, I’m ancient enough to recall the old Rolling Stones song “Dancing with Mr. D,” off their ‘73 LP “Goats Head Soup”, but I do digress. Let’s roll on back to sheer mortal terror circa 1980.
Although the ultra-violent shaking was jarring, and its duration ridiculous, most frightening of all was the deafening roar created when everything making up our humble home groaned, snapped, crackled, and popped in howling unison. Mr. D’s eerie unearthly din sounded like a freight train barreling through our bedroom. We were goners. Doomed. How long could this
And then it stopped. Click. We’d survived. We could exhale. Mr. D had left the building. Click.
But before we could draw another breath, the first aftershock struck. Oh, great. Here we go again. This was Mr. D’s reprise, eh? Not so fast, Eddie. After about five seemingly endless seconds, it stopped again. Click. Moments later, another potent aftershock hit, followed by another, then another, et cetera. Click. Click. Click, ad nauseam. Really? Nice going, Mr. D. Make yourself at home. Stay a while. Thankfully, his aftershocks did not go on ad infinitum. Small mercies?
Mr. D did cause serious injuries, major bridge collapses, and countless rattled nerves. When we turned on the radio, KHSU was blasting “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. Touche! News concerning Mr. D’s towering wrath and hideous scowls was sketchy. Therefore, like loose rocks rattling around an otherwise empty cranium, myriad inane questions riddled my already addled brain: Had this been the proverbial “big one”? If so, had San Francisco been the epicenter? If it hadn’t been an earthquake, had the Bay Area been nuked? Had San Diego been nuked? Had all our Coronado family and friends been reduced to glowing, radioactive, crispy critters? Were we next?
C’mon, Eddie-boy. That’s just wrong. Get a grip, and don’t be such a flaming doofus! You’re still here, aren’t you? And so is everyone else. So please shut up, silly rabbit, and go back to dreamland.