"At a quarter past five came the earthquake. A minute later flames were leaping upward. The streets were humped into ridges and depressions and piled with debris of fallen walls. ... All the shrewd contrivances and safeguards of man had been thrown out of gear by 30 seconds' twitching of Earth's crust."
So says an excerpt from an article by Jack London that appeared in the May 5, 1906, issue of Colliers Weekly, describing the great San Francisco Earthquake, sometimes called "The original big one."
Earthquakes are unpredictable. No one knows just when or where they will take place.
When a killer quake strikes the Middle East, China, Japan, Indonesia or even California, people in other areas are prone to consign all major future shocks to points other than where they live, but there are no really safe zones.
The U.S. government once listed 12 population centers that are at risk of earthquakes, with seven of these not being on the Pacific Rim: Salt Lake City; Memphis, Tenn.; St. Louis; Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; Boston; and Charleston.
All of these locations would be expected to sustain heavy damage because most of their buildings are not "earthquake proof."
Earthquake experts say there are between 2,500 and 10,000 tremors a day on this fidgety planet, but consider how small these numbers are compared to the tremors experienced by those going through home breakups or by those who have received word that they have some dreaded disease or face life-threatening surgery.
World attention is now focused on the tsunami, caused by an undersea Asian earthquake that claimed more than 150,000 lives and captured the compassion of millions.
We struggle to take in the full effect of such losses and this horrific quake isn't even the most deadly one. Earthquakes in China on May 22, 1927, and July 28, 1976, took 200,000 and 242,000 lives, respectively.
The real tragedies of earthquakes are the human ones. Crumbled concrete, twisted steel, shattered shanties and battered boats may monopolize television time, but these can be rebuilt and replaced. Loved ones lost to furious floods and falling buildings cannot.
Death as the result of a collapsing highway bridge or a raging river filled with mud and debris brings the same grief as does the loss of a son or daughter in an alcohol related traffic accident and that kind of emotional earthquake strikes every 20 minutes ... every day.
There are many experiences in life that can shake us up. Most go through things they didn't think they would. Many go through things they didn't think they could.
How can we survive emotionally in a world that is beset by threats of death and destruction somewhere everyday?
Long ago, the psalmist gave this encouraging news to all experiencing trembling times: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though its waters roar and be troubled. Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46
Try this time tested faith-builder the next time your world begins to shake.
You'll find it a good way to earthquake-proof your life.
Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines.
He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.
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