Lessons learnedpublished: 2010-02-28
When I was a child, we lived in countries that had power-cuts, hurricanes, floods, droughts and earthquakes. Where schools in Europe had fire drills, we had earthquake drills. What were we taught to do? Drop off our chairs and sit under our desks with our hands over our heads. At home, my mother practiced something similar with us: we were to dive under the huge desk in my parents’ bedroom. And most importantly, we had to stay away from windows. In fact, staying away from windows was a general rule for anything unusual nature decided to do in the tropics. My sister and I had calculated what spot in the living room was furthest away from all windows. We spent countless nights there, armed with our pillows, candles and flashlights.
Since my childhood, I had never given earthquakes much of a thought. Until recently considering the abundance of them in the news. I am in Rio now, with my man and son. Most of Rio was built in the 70’s, almost overnight and in cheap materials. I dread to think what would happen if an earthquake were to hit this place. It has me wondering: would sitting under a table help at all if there are ten stories above you, and your building is surrounded by at least fifty other ones that are just as tall? So I told my man, “if we feel an earthquake, here’s what we do: we grab our son and run downstairs and try to get outside.” In fact, it’s the worst thing you can do during an earthquake. Or maybe sitting inside and waiting for a ten-story building to drop on your head is even worse.