Sunday started as normal – or so it seemed – till around 4.30pm when our corner of the world got rocked a bit at its core. I was driving son 2 home around 4/4.15pm when I felt a few seconds of sudden vibration and had to grip my steering wheel tighter, slowed down – though I wasn’t even driving that fast – and before I could figure out whether the dodgy upliftment could be penciled down to too many cups of coffee taken earlier in the day to ward of sleep or the insufficient sleep the previous night. During this brief experience, son 2 was fast asleep beside me, oblivious and probably thought he was being rocked gently to sleep.
Approaching our street a few minutes later, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of people who stood outside respective towers on both sides of the street. Some were gathered in little groups having animated conversations, some stood silently alone looking up, down and around. My first thoughts as I literally brought my car to a crawl were: ‘there must have been an accident’ but a quick scan showed the absence of police cars, ambulance or anything of the sort. Maybe a tower is on fire, I thought. Yet again, a quick scan did not reveal billowing smokes from a fire nor any fire truck in the vicinity.
I pulled to a stop in front of our building and for the first time in forever, many parking lots stood empty. I had lots of spaces to choose from. A rarity in this area despite the fact that it cost 2 dirhams to park a vehicle for an hour. I had pre-informed son 1 to come downstairs and meet me so that he could accompany me for a quick trip to sort out some stuff (call me a cheapskate; though I will say I am being thrifty), the essence of taking him along is so that he can wait in the vehicle while I made a quick dash to do the things I needed to do without having to pay for a parking space for an errand that would be completed under 30 minutes.
When son 1 came down, I asked him if he knew why there was so much hustle and bustle of folks, he told me how the house literally shook for a good 30 to 40 seconds barely half an hour ago. Earthquake! My heart started beating faster. I called my apartment and instructed daughter of mine to make her way down immediately and join us. She is always as cool as cucumber but this panicked mother was not about to drive off without all her children in her company – I have only 3 as it is. She narrated her own version of the quake which had made her feel dizzy for about a minute and she had thought it was all in her head until son 1 confirmed that indeed the house had trembled.
As we drove to run errands, from one street to the next people were in clusters discussing their experience. You could see the worried lines etched on people’s faces. I noticed the total absence of laughter. You could feel the air palpate with bated energy of ‘let’s wait and see.’ No one was sure if that was just a ripple to announce bigger ripples or if that was all. Old movie images of houses crumbling like a pack of cards flashed through my mind, but thankfully, we ain’t dying just yet. It took a little more time before people felt confident enough to go back into their high-rise apartments albeit with airs of unquestionable concern.
Unannounced. Unexpected. That is life and its transient state for you. One minute you think everything is fine and dandy and the next minute things happen and things fall apart. Occurrences like this remind you of how small you are in the larger scheme of things and how much we are not truly in control of anything in life. It reminds one how mortal you are and how no minute in life is guaranteed to us. No matter how we plan, no matter how much we know, the future can never be ordered like a band of soldiers. Still, we as striving humans our effervescent need to be in control and to create possibilities cannot be ignored. Thankfully, these were only tremors.