“Shaken, not stirred”

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Sometimes it matters to hold onto material – notes, books, old addresses, friends – because odds are they’ll be useful some day.

So also with magazines and newspapers.

Now and then the news overdoes it, and we have as many personal stories stacked on another as we have stories of a hospital or office building pancaked into layers. It’s impossible to fathom the suffering of an entire nation when one can hardly fathom that of a single family or individual.

A friend handed me the following story and besides its exquisite language, it gives such a view of grief that I can reach through it and better understand the horror, even though on a tighter focus. I don’t know the author, I really don’t even know Hawaii, but I do know about fear for one’s child.

Shaken, not stirred.

That famous James Bond line came to mind as I sought to describe the magnitude 6.7 earthquake we felt on the Big Island of Hawaii on Sunday, Oct. 15 [2006.] Truth be told, I was both physically shaken and emotionally stirred.

I had gone to church early to catch up after having been away. And at 7:07 a.m. it happened.

My words won’t do it justice. The incredible rocking of the earth, the sound of moaning buildings and falling/breaking glass, the overwhelming sense of both immense power and unpredictability—it was an incredibly raw moment in our otherwise processed world.

One couldn’t stand or walk—only “surf” toward the open door. There was nowhere to run from the quaking ground.

Above the loud carnage of noise came the unmistakable sound of the unattended church bell. It rang defiantly throughout the entire quake. Then as quickly as the quake began, an eerie and uneasy silence enveloped us.

I called my 13-year-old daughter, Katrina, on my cell phone. I could barely understand her as she sobbed hysterically. I drove the three miles to our home on roads littered with boulders and lava rocks. My hands and soul were still shaking uncontrollably.

Our home faced the direction of the epicenter and had taken a sizable hit. Glass and debris were scattered throughout the house. Our roof buckled, our decking was detached and every room had cracks in the walls.

But we were safe. Physically shaken and emotionally stirred. But safe.

I returned to the church. More than 40 people came to 9 a.m. worship. We sang, prayed and read from psalms: “God is our refuge and our strength,” a psalm that will never be the same for me again.

If there was any silver lining, it is these:

• More residents heard from people they hadn’t heard from in some time.

• Neighbors talked to neighbors they hadn’t talked with before.

• We were sensitized to those who have experienced far worse quakes recently: people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

• We were reminded of the immense power of nature—and how very small we really are.

I have a new conditioned behavior that would make scientist Ivan Pavlov proud. Every time we ring the church bell to begin worship, I tense up a bit as my mind goes back to that one particular Sunday, when the bell rang itself.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

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