Yesterday we had a huge earthquake in Costa Rica. It was the biggest one I’ve ever felt. As a matter of fact, it was the biggest one to hit CR since 1991. I was in the middle of teaching 5th grade math in my tiny second story classroom when I realized something was making a noise. I thought the kid in the front row was wiggling in his desk, his chair legs scrapping the wooden floor, but a second later I saw ALL the children wiggling in their desks!
I looked up at our ceiling fan and it was swaying. I said, “Oh, hang on! We’re having an earthquake!” I looked out the window at my lovely view of the rooftops around our room. The corrugated metal roofing panels were flapping and banging violently. “Everyone out! Let’s go!” I shouted over the clattering of metal against metal.
We started walking calmly (sort of) to our “Emergency Point” next to the mango tree in front of the building. Our outdoor hallways are covered with the same metal panels as the roofs. I looked up and saw strips of daylight bouncing between the panels and I thought, “Uh oh, that’s not good. Gotta get the kids out from under this roof.” So I jogged the last few steps onto the grass. The clanging was still really loud as all the roofs have the same metal paneling.
We huddled together, and I comforted a few crying little girls who had never experienced an earthquake. The ground was still rolling under our feet and I was starting to get sick to my stomach from the motion! Surely it will stop soon! But the trees were still swaying and my inner ears kept swirling. It ended with a pause and a final shake. I stood there with my arms around my 5th graders, my hands trembling. It was over.
All the classes were collected in the main open hallway to wait for the government to announce on the radio if school would be canceled or if the day should resume. Depending on the size of the quake, an inspector might have to be sent out to check the buildings before we could go back in. Parents streamed into the school from both the front and the back gates to collect their shaken children, not waiting for the minister of education to give the “all clear”. We waited for an hour to be sure there was no aftershocks, then the principal sent us back to our classes. My husband sent me a text to check up on us. Another hour later we were sending all the kids home for the day.
In the car, I gave each of my kids a chance to tell their story. I was happy that while we waited, I had each of my kids within my sight, safe and sound. So hearing their stories of how they first felt the quake and what they first thought was entertaining and not fear-enducing. The older two kids were excited and their moods set the tone for the younger one. Her story got bigger and bigger the longer she talked. It ended with, “and I looked into the gym and saw all the babies shaking. I knew I had to save them!” We were now rolling with laughter as we shook off the effects of feeling the ground roll beneath our feet.