Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sound Familiar?

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.

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
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:
...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.

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.
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.

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.

2 comments:

Lady Morwen said...

Well, it's all about home isn't it?

I spent twenty years living in San Francisco... it was my home away from home. (The only city remotely like New Orleans in this country.) Went through the '89 Quake there. Still, none of us wanted to leave a place we loved.

The same holds true here in the "underwater" city. This is our home and our heart. I returned five years ago vowing that nothing would pry my little tush from the city. Nothing can.

Is this an insane viewpoint? No, it's a realistic viewpoint: the good places for a real Human Being to live all have Natural dangers. The safe areas contain nothing but brain-dead people... no stimulus, no drive... no real soul. The natural environment in the "safe" areas is so stable as to never challenge those who live there. (It's a Metaphysical thing.) Challenges against forces one cannot control is what makes us grow, especially in the Spiritual sense. We live on the edge of the Abyss.

For six months out of every year we cringe when a cyclone enters the Gulf. We pray that it doesn't come to our part of the Coast, but will never wish it to hit others. (Well... I could wish it on D.C.) So we make groceries, stocking up the house, and get folks to come over that have a harder chance of surviving the storm to seek safety within our homes. We cook foods, play music and cards... watch a movie. Prepare the lanterns and the candles, and just wait for the fury to come. It's been like this for three centuries. It is our Reality. This is how we live.

At least we KNOW what's coming. The earthquake zones don't.

If the Hayward Fault does go, and it's going to soon, and if it happens under our current Administration, the resulting "rescue" of the East Bay will be the same as what we are going through here in New Orleans post-Deluge.

Ours was a man-made disaster. Theirs will be a Natural one. It doesn't matter to those in Power one way or the other: They only care about money and power, not people. We all will be treated the same as mushrooms: Kept in the dark and fed sh*t. Just watch. We are not OK, but what the Hell? We will survive..

"Hon? May I have some of that New House blend? Maybe a little chicory and some cream? And a shot of whisky please? I'd be mighty grateful!"

ashley said...

The difference is that the federal government is legally obliged to build proper levees. Had they done so, some of my friends would not be missing today, and my blog would consist solely of pictures of my children and witless banter.

There is no protection for earthquakes. My 5 years in LA taught me that.