Chaos on Remington Court

The kitchen cabinets and drawers released their contents, spilling plates and glasses onto the stone floors.

The big screen TV tipped back against the wall and the six foot slate blackboard, weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, toppled over, crashed face down, missing the hefty coffee table by a mere inch.

The ceiling fans swung, chafing the plaster.

The pool lost 12,000 gallons of water, drenching the yard and pushing the patio furniture against the house. Planters toppled, shattered.

In the garage, the motorcycles tipped over, the riding jackets lay dumped onto the floor in a pile. And the shelving buckled, spilling fishing tackle, tools, cans of lubricants, wax, cleaning solvents.

And the drums fell.

And things like floorboards, videos, cans of paint, suitcases and books fell from their cubbies.

In the bedrooms, dressers tipped over, mirrors, photos in their frames shattered against the tiles.

In the office, the ancient LC Smith typewriter crashed from its perch above the bookcase and slammed into the desk.

In the office, the bookcases released their books, the shelves traveling ten inches from the wall. The file cabinet moved a foot to the left. The printer/fax machine slammed against the wall. The guitar on its stand toppled over. Rocks, postcards, small statues, fell from their places onto the hardwood.

The wine in the wine cabinets jilted from their positions, crashed onto the floor. We lost only one bottle of wine, a Narsai David, 2004, an auction item for which my wife paid a hundred and fifty dollars. We were "saving" it for the perfect occasion; it undoubtedly passed. The chandelier above the stand alone tub broke into a thousand pieces.

Throughout the house, cracks appeared in the hallways--in the master bedroom, in the powder room, in the family room, in the garage, and in the kitchen--some thin, surface disruptions to the paint and plaster, some deeper fault lines.

So much broken glass.

One dining table chair fell over.

Potted plants few into the wall, shattered.

So much violence done in twenty odd seconds.

The walls held, The ceiling and the floors, all held. The staircase held. The windows held. The large chandelier, constructed of cast iron and glass sconces, held. The second story did not fly apart, come crashing down and crushing us. The computer in the office held, and even the tiny statue of Buddha, about the size of peanut, stayed rooted in his spot on the computer's stand, guarding its fortune cookie fortune: "Allow yourself time - you will reach success." The bed in the master bedroom held, barely traveling away from the wall, and the clothes in the closet remained just where we placed them, tucked and folded in neat rows on the shelves. The patio awning held, the palm trees and rose trees, the birds of paradise, held. The chimneys, the fences, the facade's two decorate columns, all held. No new cracks in the driveway, no new cracks in the front walkway, no new cracks and crevices appeared in the patio. The gutters and downspouts remained in their fixed positions, and except for four decorative bricks along the lower outside walls, the facade held. These are things to be thankful for.

Family is true wealth. My wife was unhurt. My newborn son slept through the violence, the shaking house, his screaming mother. One day we will tell him what he survived and the "courage" he displayed, asleep, dreaming, no doubt of his mother's milk. My stepson was unhurt. My two dogs, perhaps shocked and alarmed by the world shaking, bending, threatening to break apart, were unhurt, though as early earthquake detection warning devices they fell asleep on the job. I was unhurt. These are what I am most thankful for.

We lost power. The house alarm screamed. We lost phone service, both landline and phone. We lost water. Eighty water mains in the area ruptured. I shut off the power. I did not smell gas. James and Victoria across the street lost their statues of Christian saints. They lost their newly constructed pool. James knocked on our front door at 4:00 AM, concerned about us and especially the baby. "We are fine," I told him. "We're unhurt." He said he needed my help to upright the refrigerator and so I helped him. We managed to push up the five hundred pound beast. A wine bottle spilled out and rolled across the floor. His family was unhurt, his wife Victoria, chubby little Marcus with the lisp, and cute Abigail with her Coke-bottle glasses and their other grandchildren were all fine.

James and I checked on the neighbors. Lori, recently diagnosed with cancer, was fine, cheery as ever: "It's just stuff!" Mrs. Spielberg next door was concerned about gas. Her expensive chandelier, made of brass and glass, crashed onto her dining room table. She lost expensive mirrors, an expensive chair, expensive dishes and fine china. But she was fine. All the neighbors, bleary eyed, rattled, had lost things but their families were whole, sustaining just a few minor scrapes, minor scratches, no broken bones. Our love of family, community, concern for the welfare of our neighbors, remained intact.

As we continue to assess the damages in our homes and downtown, calculate our losses, we will surely replace planters and chandeliers, sculptures of Christian saints and expensive dishes, but what we can never replace, or eradicate, is the memory of that early morning, when the overwhelming sensation of powerlessness swept through us like a tidal wave.

Downtown, with its many broken buildings, will recover, and the wine industry, having lost its yields, will recover.

We will recover because we have good friends and decent families.

We will recover because that is who we are: Patient, Resilient, Possessed of indomitable will.

Because in the end, "It's just stuff."

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