California sits at the edge of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The two plates are divided by the San Andreas Fault – a fault capable of producing massive earthquakes*, and numerous other, smaller fault lines riddle our region and occasionally cause smaller quakes.
But earthquakes are not something Germans are used to. Sitting within the Eurasian Plate, Germany is a tectonically calm region. It is no surprise that for the longest time, I haven’t been able to even tell whether what shook the house momentarily here in California was indeed an earthquake.
Over time, I’ve gotten better at this. Sunday morning we had an earthquake that briefly rattled and ended with a single jolt. In the past, my thoughts were either “what the hell was THAT?!” or “why on earth is there a military jet over our house, breaking the sound barrier?!” but today, I was proud to realize: “hey, this was an earthquake!” 😛
A jet airplane passing overhead is still a much better explanation than the one my late mother came up with in the evening of May 6th, 1976, when the Friuli earthquake in northern Italy struck – it was strong enough that it could be felt all the way to Munich, where we lived at the time.
It was 9 PM and as a kid I was asleep in bed already. My father had gone to the basement of the house to perform some maintenance on the central heating unit and down there he felt nothing, of course. My mother on the other hand was in the living room, watching TV, and the curtains swung back and forth once, “as if the entire house had taken a breath”, she told us the next day.
In that moment, as unfamiliar with the sensation of earthquakes as “we Germans” apparently are, she ran to the kitchen where the basement door of the house was, ripped it open and yelled down the staircase, to my father: “What the hell are you doing, the entire house is moving!”