Elke DeMuynck is a resident of Hayward, California, about 25 miles from San Francisco:
DeMuynck could throw her paint brush from her front stoop and hit the Hayward Fault, which geologists consider the most dangerous in the San Francisco Bay Area, if not the nation. Like others who live here, she gets by on a blend of denial, hope and humor.Experts say the area is due for a big quake, yet I don’t hear any calls for government programs to buyout homes in Hayward and to encourage residents to move out of a disaster just waiting to happen:
It's the geologists, emergency planners and historians who seem to do most of the worrying, even in this year of heightened earthquake awareness for the 100th anniversary of San Francisco's Great Quake of April 18, 1906
...there was the Great Quake of 1868 on the Hayward, a magnitude-6.9 rumbler that killed five people. Severe quakes have happened on the Hayward Fault every 151 years, give or take 23 years, meaning it is now into the danger zone.I don’t want Hayward or Bay Area residents to move. If they want to live on top of a fault on which, in the event of an earthquake, the “ground on each side of the fault could shift 3 feet, meaning two objects on opposite sides could be abruptly carried a total of 6 feet apart,” I’m down. Personally, I prefer drained swampland that is sinking in a coastal flood zone that could be inundated with 12 feet of water in the event of a hurricane.
Experts forecast the next big one will be in the potentially lethal 6.7 to 7.0 range. The Association of Bay Area Governments estimates it would wipe out about 155,000 housing units, 37,000 in San Francisco alone.
For those who criticize us for living here, I just don’t see the difference between living in Hayward, CA, and NOLA. If anything, in New Orleans, we have just reset the risk dial while Hayward is, presumably, about to make the flip.
I hope they don’t make the flip. But that’s exactly it. I don’t have a say in when and where disasters happen. No one does. Disaster could happen tomorrow in Hayward. It could happen again in New Orleans next hurricane season. It could happen next Monday to someone driving to work in Idaho.
What sounds familiar to me is not so much Elke DeMuynck’s situation, but her attitude – getting by on a blend of denial, hope and humor:
"There's dangers all around us, all the time, so if we thought about those dangers all the time, we wouldn't have anything else to think about," said DeMuynck, 62. "We just come home and say, 'The house is still here. We're OK for another day.'"I remember denial, hope, and humor. It was New Orleans’ house blend before the storm. After the storm, for those who stay, it will have to be acceptance, resolve, and humor.
Acceptance, because we came home one day and our houses were not still there. You can’t deny that.
Resolve, because we are not OK today and we must fight to be OK. It’s not about hoping someone else will fight for us.
Humor, because hey, this is still New Orleans, y’all.
New Orleans’ new house blend: acceptance, resolve, humor. I like mine strong, black, and no sugar. And, of course, chicory. I’m still a little bitter.