April 20, 2013 - 8:02a.m.
This morning, as we were eating breakfast, I looked towards the window at this view. The plants suddenly began to shake and sway, like they were on the coastline with a stiff ocean breeze blowing through. But it wasn't just the plants moving, it was our chairs beneath us, and the rumbling started.
"We're having an earthquake!"
Now, I'm not superman, and I was debilitatingly terrified of earthquakes when we lived in San Francisco. But in my mind, I thought, "Here it is. I've been expecting it."
When we first learned we were coming to Chengdu, I starting googling and most of what I found was about the terrible earthquake in 2008 that killed around 88,000 people. So I thought, "I probably dodged the earthquake in San Francisco, only to find it in China." With all the things to fear about living in China, an earthquake was only somewhere down that list.
Kirk dove down the stairs, as our apartment is only one flight up. I stopped to grab my purse and the key to the apartment. I even put on some shoes, but was still in my pajamas. As I was leaving, I could hear things falling in the apartment.
My empty hair spray bottle fell off the dresser shelf.
These empty boxes fell from the top of the bookshelf/hutch.
We were the first ones outside, and soon we were joined by several other people from our building and neighborhood. The dogs were barking like crazy, and people were yelling loudly and talking excitedly. I soon went back inside (much to Kirk's protesting) to get our passports and bottles of water. After talking and comparing ideas for about 20 minutes, we realized that although aftershocks would certainly come, they would likely be less powerful and it didn't look like any buildings were coming down. We went back inside.
I immediately wrote our children to tell them we were safe, and we put together a bag of food in case we needed to leave again. We did feel many aftershocks (I recorded at least 10; official count is over 4000!), including one during Church the next day. Saturday night, our university liaison came by our apartment to warn us that another major quake was expected during the night. I'm not sure how/why they were predicting that, but they suggested sleeping with a beer bottle balanced upside down on the bedside table so that it would fall over and wake us up in the event of a major event. Although many people in Chengdu chose to sleep outside in the park in a tent, we slept fine in our bed.
The news was not as good for others in Ya'an and Lushan, the area 90 miles away at the 7.0 quake's epicenter.
The bad news at our school was that several students actually jumped from their dormitory windows trying to escape. Some were severely injured. Also, 6 people in the city of Chengdu died jumping from their apartment homes in fear. They have since conducted an earthquake drill on campus, and there are posters and articles instructing the students what to do as well as donations being collected for the victims. We were greeted a week later in front of our teaching building by students who were passing out these green ribbons in memory of the victims.
As I felt the earth quaking, and the aftershocks trembling, it gave me a sense of the spirit of the earth. According to scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 123:7, "the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity". D&C 88:87 "For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man..." D&C 63:20-21 "...He that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come; When the earth shall be transfigured..."
The prophet Mormon declared: "And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in diverse places." China is definitely one of those diverse places.