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(Host) Commentator David Moats rather enjoyed the earthquake that recently shook the region, but he’s glad it wasn’t any stronger.

(Moats) Wasn’t the earthquake exciting? I’m talking about the quake we felt the morning of April 20. Most of us were probably still in bed. The first thing we sensed was a roaring or rumbling somewhere outside the house and then the house got caught up in the rumbling and everything shook for about 30 seconds. After a few seconds, during which we discarded every other possible theory, we knew it was an earthquake. And we said, “So that’s what an earthquake feels like.”

Actually, I already knew what an earthquake felt like. I am becoming a connoisseur of quakes, if you can call two quakes grounds for connoisseurship. The quake we felt on April 20 brought back memories of that much more serious and scary quake I happened to be in the middle of in 1989.

I had arrived in San Francisco five hours before. By five o’clock in the afternoon I had gone to the San Francisco Chronicle to meet a friend, and we were on the third floor when we felt a huge jolt, as if a monster truck had crashed into the building. But it wasn’t a truck and it wasn’t a gentle rumbling like we felt on April 20. It was a roaring, rattling, shaking action that had the whole building in its grip. Someone across the room shouted earthquake, and everyone crawled under desks. This was not the curious sensation I felt lying bed on April 20. The pictures in my mind were of rubble, with me in the middle of it.

When it was over, everyone shared a sort of hysteria. My friend had to rush off to fetch his little boy from day care. We were also wondering about Candlestick Park and whether it had fallen on around 50,000 baseball fans. Outside none of the traffic lights were working, so the streets were a kind of free-for-all. Sirens were screaming and fire engines were heading off to who-knew-where. At one intersection we got in a fender bender. We exchanged phone numbers and sped on. We found my friend’s son and made our way to their house. Looking off in the distance from their front window we could see the glow of the fires in the Marina district where buildings had collapsed.

The people of Turkey, India, Armenia, Japan know the terrible sense of vulnerability that earthquakes create. I was nervous for a week until I finally got airborne on my way home to Vermont. We got a taste of it on April 20, a reminder of the powerful forces hidden within the earth’s surface. In a way it was exhilarating, a 30-second adventure ride that, happily, left us unscathed. I enjoy having the San Francisco story to tell. But I can testify that our quake in Vermont was plenty strong. A pleasant Saturday morning quake that gave the day a certain edge. As far as earthquakes go, it was good enough.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

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