The children and I waved goodbye as he drove off to the airport, then shut the door quickly because it was still below freezing outside. About five o’clock, feeling lonesome for him, Anne, eight, David, six, and I went upstairs to watch TV. Anne and David were wearing blue jeans and cotton Tshirts; I had on a wool dress and nylon stockings. We took off our shoes so we could sit on the bed.
It was half an hour later that I heard a rumbling sound. Although we frequently hear a similar roaring—the firing of guns at a nearby Army base—I knew instantly that this was the sound of an impending earthquake.
I leaped up, called to the children to follow and raced for the stairs. By the time we reached the front hall, the whole house was beginning to shake. We ran outside into the snow, David crying, “Mommy, I’m in bare feet!”
We were about 10 feet beyond the door when the world around us fell apart. We were flung violently to the ground, which was jolting back and forth with unbelievable force.
The hallway through which we had just run split in two. We heard the crashing of glass, the ear-rending sound of splintering wood. In front of us, a great tree crashed full length onto the ground. Our garage collapsed with a sharp report.
Now the earth began breaking up and buckling all about us. Suddenly between Anne and me a great crack opened in the snow. I stared in disbelief as the trench widened, apparently bottomless, separating me from my child. I seized the hand she stretched out to me in time to pull her across the chasm to my side.
By now the whole lawn was breaking up into chunks of dirt, rock, snow and ice. We were left on a wildly bucking slab; suddenly it tilted sharply, and we had to hang on to keep from slipping into a yawning crevasse. Though sobbing, Anne had the presence of mind to hang on by herself—thank God, for I was holding David with one hand, our bit of ground with the other.
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