Yesterday evening, two earthquakes measuring magnitudes between 5 and 6 struck the Korean Peninsula. The epicenter of both was near my city, and it really shook up us residents. At the time the rumbling and trembling suddenly began, we knew it could be serious.
The Korean government officially considers that a level 6 earthquake could be life threatening and cause major damage because of the age and lowish standard of construction in this country. The highest measurement taken of the earthquakes yesterday was 5.8. Authorities were quick to deny damage to nuclear power stations, industrial production centers and state infrastructure. However, there were cracks in walls and fallen objects such as signs and tiles in residential areas. Yeah, it could have been a lot worse.
Where was I at the time of these quakes? I was sitting at home, laptop on lap and getting settled in for the night. My pet birds were sleeping in and on the cage, having been covered, to optimize their nighttime comfort, as is the usual routine in this household.
Suddenly, there was a big bang and things started shaking violently. No slow build up to the big tremor this time. I rose to hold onto the cages which sit up on a tall cabinet, the most vulnerable objects during tremors. Startled, the birds woke up. If finches are rudely awakened, they become frightened and confused. Though they see poorly in the dim light, they jump and fly around, crashing into walls and other objects in their fright and confusion. They do this anytime they suddenly awaken out of a deep sleep, and they were even more panicked when the cage beneath them rocked them off their perches. They really flew around crazily. (Cages are left open, and one had been sleeping on the rooftop of the cage, anyway.)
I did not think about escaping the room. Actually, it seemed futile to try, since the quake lasts some seconds and the damage can happen swiftly while one is inside or on the way outside. After the first big tremor, emergency civil services got into gear, and a voice over a mobile loudspeaker gave orders. I guess it urged people to exit and wait in the street, because that is what a lot of people did. I remained inside, confident that this building was new enough and stable enough to withstand what would surely be no more than a 6-point quake after the first one. Indeed, the biggest tremor occurred some 50 minutes later, and it was scarier than the first. Once again, the birdies, who had just quietened down and drifted back to sleep, went crazy zooming around and bumping into everything. I was more concerned about them than me. I received a message that my colleague-neighbours living here had exited and were wondering what had happened to me while they waited out the crisis in the street.
What I mostly wanted to related to readers about this incident is the online chatting that was occurring from the time of the first big tremor to the the next. Sitting on my bed looking over Facebook postings while listening to a documentary, I noticed the entries about the quake right away. I tried to get data from meteorological agencies to share, then tuned into the social exchanges. An expat group page was buzzing!
Reflecting on those numerous and lengthy exchanges just after the first significant quake until the period shortly after the second, I realized that those could have been our last words had the quake been more drastic. Participants of the group were exchanging data, sharing experiences as the tremors passed, and joking around. For example, I also exchanged a meteorological report and conveyed a concern about possible damage to a nuclear power plant near my city.
It was interesting how many people on this social exchange were making light of the situation as a potential disaster may have been in the making. I, too, joined in the kibitzing, sharing a music video of Taylor Swift's song, "Shake it off!" and a photo warning of a land mine with a quip about being thankful it had not been a bomb. I also changed my profile picture to reveal an image of my shadow, joking that this was my nuclear shadow after a blast. There was a lot of sardonic and playful volleying, besides. Nobody got sentimental or conveyed fear even as the danger of the situation began sinking in. One person frankly admitted that we could die anytime, though.
Now that I think back to the experience of these quakes, I think that it would not have been a bad way to leave this Earth, had the quake killed me. I mean, I was talking to colleagues and cyber acquaintances with good humour and offering help at the time. I and/ or others could have perished in the middle of the chat. That would have been fine.
In general, I am prepared for my passing. There are a will and accompanying information sheets standing by, just in case. I have kept my apartment and storage container in good order. All my bills are paid, and I would leave no debts.
In this instance, what I was doing at the time of my death was quite transparent. How and where I passed would have been clearly determined.
Therefore, to pass away because of earthquake damage while in the throes of cheerful chitchat would be nice. That is, if I was killed quickly, of course. I wouldn't mind my words of the moment being shared and known.