The Day the Earth Shook

Sarah Bruihler
November 15, 2016

Minnesota doesn’t get earthquakes. Period, end of story. If my house shakes back home, it’s because of some strong winds during a thunderstorm, and it definitely doesn’t knock things off of shelves.

It was just past midnight on Sunday night, and I was lying in bed, watching snapchat stories before going to sleep. The wall next to my bed started to shake. At first I thought that it was just really windy outside, or maybe there was someone running up or down the staircase outside our flat. I’m not sure how long it took, but I quicly realized that this was no storm, and that no one was running down the stairs. I got out of bed and threw on the first clothes I grabbed, going out into the common space of my flat. One of my flatmates was in the kitchen, and we decided to go outside, as we’re on the third story and we could see other people out on the lawn. The building was still shaking as we made our way out and down the stairs. A lot of people were outside, huddling together: some people were in pajamas, some had thrown on jackets, and others were wearing their blankets. The ground was still shaking, and I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing – this has GOT to be a big one.

Everyone got the okay to go back into their buildings after a few minutes, back inside we looked it up and saw an initial report of a 6.6M earthquake, near Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs (about a 2 hour drive from Christchurch). My building was evacuated again to do a check, we were outside for another 10 minutes or so. My two flatmates who were home and I stayed up in the common room, all on our own computers looking for any news about the quake. Eventually the report went up to 7.5M, and we realized that we were lucky to be where we were; we saw reports of people without electricity further north, and damage to buildings in Wellington. The whole time we were up, we continued to feel aftershocks, which weren’t as intense as the first quake, but that were still strong quakes. Eventually around 2am, I decided that I needed to at least attempt to go to sleep. As soon as I got in bed though, I found myself unable to sleep, for two reasons: a – when I was close to falling asleep, an aftershock would hit and wake me up entirely, b – even when there were no aftershocks, I was completely awake, in anticipation of the next one. Needless to say, it was a rough night as far as sleeping was concerned.

The next day, I woke up to a multitude of messages asking if I was alright, and what it was like, and “ARE YOU OKAY???” I had used the Facebook emergency system to mark myself as ‘safe’ in the Christchurch Earthquake - that status had more than 30 likes in the morning. Honestly, it should have been called the New Zealand Earthquake, or the Wellington Earthquake, as Christchurch was barely affected, aside from some shakes. We felt a few more aftershocks during the day on Monday, but by that time they were no longer something that scared me, as they were much gentler than the big one had been. Looking at the news, I realized how lucky everyone was. The earthquake caused only 2 casualties, compared to the 185 from the 2011 Christchurch quake. Wellington is suffering from the earthquake much more than Christchurch, and I can’t say I have any details of what is going on in that region, but Christchurch is doing just fine post-quake.

I study geology, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to experience an earthquake while I was here. I would never have guessed that I would get to experience such a major shake-up though. One of my friends compared it to one of the tilting rooms that they would have at a carnival. If you want to know what an earthquake feels like, imagine that, but with things close to the edges of shelves falling off; you’re really unsteady on your feet as you’re trying to walk, and sometimes you can’t tell if the shaking stopped or not, because you’re shaking yourself.

Being in this earthquake is something that I’m not going to forget anytime soon, and will be one of my most poignant memories from my time spent in Christchurch.

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Sarah Bruihler

<p>Hi there, I&#39;m Sarah! I&#39;ve lived in the midwest my whole life (moving around between Wisconsin and Minnesota). I&#39;m a junior at Gustavus Adolphus College, and am pursuing a major in Geology, and a possible minor in Sociology and Anthropology. I play rugby, sing in the choir, and am in love with travelling and seeing what this great wide world has to offer me!</p>

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