6 March, 2001

Welcome to HeyBob's world.

Bob "HeyBob" Haslanger, a wood-worker, had this to say about last week's earthquake in Washington. He and his wife, Dawn, live on Bainbridge Island, across the sound from Seattle.

I would have reported earlier but my internet connection went out yesterday morning about five hours before the earthquake. I wonder if I could use that as a method of prediction? I've heard of even less reliable indicators.
. . . We're all fine. At the house, a couple of books fell off a bookshelf. A drawer in my desk opened. A few pictures on the wall needed straightening. In all, for us, it was a wild ride with little evident physical consequence.
. . . I was working in an old wooden barn that has been converted to a cabinet shop. It is located on a dirt road in a rural wooded area near the center of the island. When the shaking started, we were able to quickly move outside. The shop has racks on the walls stacked with planks. Overhead are racks with fletches of veneer, jigs, and more wood. A rapid exit had less risk than taking the chance that all that heavy material was going to stay in place. Once outside we were able to watch the ground move and the trees sway.
. . . The first shocks were the familiar high frequency vertical bumps, similar to riding in the back of a pickup going down a potholed dirt road; some side-to-side movement but mostly up and down. After about 15 seconds (though it is hard to judge time under those conditions) the ground began to roll. It was like being out in the Straights of Juan de Fuca on the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria with a stiff Pacific roll coming from the west.
. . . The intensity increased and one of the craftsmen standing with me, SayBob, said quietly, "This is a big one, a real big one." Not much had been spoken up to that time. Our attention was held in the arc of the tree tops, the shop door banging open and shut, and the squeak of the old car next to us rocking on its springs. After about 45 seconds the motion subsided but no one made a move to go back inside the shop.

Inside the shop when we first felt the motion, the shop owner, Dan, said, "Earthquake, get outside!" I had been in the toilet and had just stood up. My pants were still at my knees. I was out the bathroom quickly, headed for the shop door, pulling them up as I ran. I still think the picture is amusing. SayBob was already outside and Dan was holding the door open, looking in my direction. As he said, "HeyBob, let's go!," I was saying, "On my way!" That was the extent of the words we passed until SayBob spoke. I'm not a fan of using exclamation points in my writing. They seem appropriate in this piece.
. . . There are two of us named Bob in the shop. To ease the confusion, I'm HeyBob and the other man is SayBob. When one of the crew addresses us, they address us as, "Say, Bob..." or "Hey, Bob...."
. . . SayBob was a bit on the pale side. I'm the shop motormouth but I hadn't spoken but three words since the quake began. SayBob is usually a man of few words, but he had been the source of a constant stream of exclamations since breaking the quiet. "Wow. This is something. This is bigger than I've ever been in before. Wow. Feel the rolling. Damn. This is big." Then he stopped. "Listen to that," he said. It was the noise of a chainsaw. I realized that I had heard the whining motor noise earlier and even while the ground was still moving.
. . . Dan said, "I wonder if Art's OK?" Art, a photographer, has his office in one corner of the barn. We all walked quickly around to the front to his door. Art, portable phone in hand, was standing out in the drive speaking quite loudly into the phone. "Don't panic, Susan! Just don't panic! Just be calm!"

As we're standing there, comparing just remembered stories of the last few minutes, a neighbor, Brad, walked up with a big smile on his ruddy, windburned face. He's got the telltale wood chips from operating a chainsaw on his overalls. "Jeez, I didn't know cuttin' down that tree was going to cause such a problem." He allowed as how once he started cutting, he didn't dare stop, even with all the shaking. "If I'd left it standing partially cut, there's no telling which direction it would have fallen," he said.
. . . We were all on our way to having another story to tell. Still, no one made a move to go back inside quite yet. For that measure of time we looked to see ease returning in the faces and postures of our companions and felt the highly focused moment broaden out as the conversation moved from our stories of the immediate time just past to comparisons with earthquakes we'd experienced and others we'd heard about. As our sense of place and time flowed outward from that three quarters of a minute, each of us recognized our connection to others, not present. Art asked Brad if he'd seen anyone next door at Emily's and they moved off to check on neighbors. Dan started back inside to get the phone to call home. As he started in he asked, "Do you guys want to go home to see what's happening there?"
. . . Later Dawn told me that she heard a seismologist from the University of Washington on the radio. She said they recorded significant movements from the quake for more than twenty minutes as the tremors bounced back and forth between formations of hard earth, like ripples on a pond. The vibrations in the human community are still being felt as our stories are moving out from the epicenter.

PHOTO AT TOP, left to right
HeyBob, Dan, and SayBob. Photo by Art.

Earthquake relief efforts in Seattle, India, and El Salvador.
In 2001, there was a link here to several efforts.

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This page copyright 2001 Bob Haslanger.