Earthquake relief

Feb 11, 2010

A call from my mother yesterday alerted me to the news that my hometown of DeKalb, Illinois experienced a minor but rare earthquake. Read about it in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.

When I was growing up in DeKalb, I learned about the New Madrid fault in southern Missouri, predicted by some to have a Big One of its own stored up.

Around the same time, I was reading Aztec, an historical novel by Gary Jennings that included some very juicy sex scenes (I was a high school boy, keep in mind). I remember one scene in the book in which an earthquake causes a man to have an erection. Fascinating, if true … but I digress.

When I was a student at John Carroll University, I often stopped by the seismograph in the foyer of the science building (read about Jesuits and seismology) to watch the squiggling record of seismic activity, though I never felt a quake during my time at Carroll.

Then, as Erin and I arrived in Vanuatu for our Peace Corps service, I knew we’d be experiencing earthquakes and other natural events — before our two years would end, we’d be drenched by cyclones, witness volcanic rumblings and lava flows, and suffer through tropical diseases. In those early days, I thought it might be cool to come through an earthquake and be able to add that to my list of things experienced in my travels around the world.

One day, while I was lounging in the Eman Emalo Guest House in the capital, Port Vila, I heard a rumbling coming my way. A moment later, a single violent jolt flowed through the cinder-block guest house. That’s all, one very short and very minor temblor that left me with the feeling of Mother Earth having a very nasty streak. It caused no physical damage, but it demolished my romantic notions of earth’s movement as cause for enjoyment.

So now, when I hear news of movement in Vanuatu — where a major one hit last year — or DeKalb or anywhere else, I thank my lucky stars and wish for steady ground.

P.S. Duke University and Health System (my employer) has stepped up to assist the people of Haiti after the devastating quake there. See this page to learn how the university community is helping, and see videos (search for Haiti) from a team of Duke Medicine caregivers who are helping at the Partners in Health clinic in Cange.

Anton Zuiker

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