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Six Years Ago Today

I love real estate porn. That's what my family calls looking at homes for sale on RedFin or Zillow. Linda and I have been fortunate with...

I love real estate porn. That's what my family calls looking at homes for sale on RedFin or Zillow. Linda and I have been fortunate with our real estate purchases and sales in Malaysia, Maryland, and California. Though we love our townhouse, it is a split-level on a ridge with lots of ups and downs. Someday we would love to live in a ranch style, single level home. One community that peaked our interest was a community on the upper edge of the Coachella Valley, beautiful homes for a reasonable price on a golf course. It is also on a pressure point of the San Andreas fault. That got us looking at cracks in the roads and patios, paying more attention to shifts of the earth visible on satellite photos. We've been there, done that, when it comes to earthquakes, starting six years ago today.

click to expand

On Saturday, April 25th, 2015, Linda and I had just returned from our weekly shopping trip. First going to the Farmers' Market at Le Sherpa for fresh greens, yogurt, cheese, hams, and our favorite, a large quiche pie. Then the school van, we hired, took us to the US Embassy commissary, where we bought our American stables such as peanut butter, chicken and spaghetti sauce.

Linda went upstairs with her lunch to watch a tv program, I fed my sourdough, and then started making a ham and cheese sandwich on the George Foreman grill. Then the world changed. A Before and An After. It's like the world has changed in slow motion for all of us with Covid, but this change happened in the space of two minutes.

I'm not sure if I first heard the shout "BILL!" upstairs or felt the shaking, but I quickly ran/stumbled to the doorway with a steel brace for security and ducked (or cringed). I pressed my arms on the doorway to stay standing. You know the sound your washing machine makes when the load is off balance? That was what a 7.8 earthquake is like, but you are inside the drum of the washer.

Items were tossed around the three story house, but our home stayed standing.

Un-made sandwich, toaster, grinder, and grill.

Shoe rack stayed but the shoes flew

Second floor, Linda's Pho lunch from the Saturday Market was abandoned. 

Water went flying, the refrigerator shifted, but drying dishes stayed in place.

The dining room's tv fell, but the china cabinet stayed in place

It was a Saturday. We were fortunate it was not a school day. A few days after the quake, I inspected the interior of the school with a team of engineers and took photos.

Bookcases fell

    Seams between buildings shifted, but didn't break

Bookshelves tumbled in a resource room




Fallen bookshelf and the top was an ...

aquarium with flying fish and glass shards



Linda's chair and desk were under this bookcase

Another collapsed bookcase

A library

How you anchor your bookcase is important

Back to the day of the earthquake.

Though the earthquake was a surprise, we were prepared. The school where we worked held numerous drills each year, including a full on simulation of a quake response. The faculty and older students were split into search and rescue teams, triage teams, communications, and care teams. The school had emergency tents and food supplies. It was prepared for an earthquake on a school day. This was Saturday.

Linda and I grabbed our "go bags" and went out to our driveway to view the house. Except for a few broken pots and leaning boundary wall, we were in good shape. That's when Ria and Peter yelled over our gate told us they were headed to the school. Their previous school had been in Japan and they had first hand experience with mega-earthquakes. At school we found some students and teachers, they had been practicing for a play, doing a mock AP exam, working out in the weight room, or just catching up on work. One couple was on the top of a new building that was nearing completion when the quake hit. On the tallest building on campus, they clung to pillars and had a bird's eye view of the dust rising from collapsing structures. A few hours later, the husband of the couple would learn that his sister died when a debris crushed her car.

Waiting for the next shake

It seems as if the world would not quit shaking. It was spring time, but it was cold, and we were all suffering from shock. Then we got to work. It was obvious that no one was going to come pick up the kids on campus. We organized a team to put up two tents. Linda and I, and one of the other couples walked back to our houses to get food. We loaded a duffle bag with our perishables, all of our homemade sourdough bread, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. 

Though the school had protein bars and bottled water stored for a disaster, what you want is comfort food.

Linda and Emily get a stove running.

Comfort food




Camp Lincoln


It started to rain. It was cold. We were wrapped up in our school emergency supply of wool blankets. It was the end of a very long day and the earth continued to shake, but we still had access to internet on our 3G devices. We connected with our family and let them know, "We're alright"


As evening fell, we hunkered down in the tents, sending out messages before the network went down and tried to get some sleep whilst the dogs howled in the valley and the earth continued to shake.



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Townhouse Gardening: Six Years Ago Today
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