3/11/2011
Magnitude

Saturn and I were joking about it a few days ago. With the frequency of earthquakes around the so-called Ring of Fire - one in New Zealand, one in Japan, one in the Philippines, almost simultaneously - I quipped that, at this rate, everything around the Pacific Ocean will break off the planet and exist on its own.

Of course, recalling that story right now seems awfully inappropriate. But my point's somewhere in the details. Saturn's in Montreal, and I'm in Manila. Saturn came from the Philippines, of course, and he's got relatives in the far-flung provinces. I was online when he heard of a minor earthquake strike the country - I can't remember where; I think it was in Mindanao - at the same time a fairly strong earthquake struck Japan. I told him we were fine. And then we cracked the jokes.

Today was no day for joking. Japan was struck by another earthquake - a magnitude 8.8 earthquake. Or 8.4. Or 8.9. The figure depends on what channel you're watching, but it's still a scary thing, a really scary thing, since the earthquake that triggered the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean was just a magnitude 8, if I remember correctly. Although, maybe, if you're getting too stressed at the figures, a little joke could go a long way.

This quake was centered in the ocean, so the tsunami warning was inevitable. Seeing a torrent of water hit the coastal areas of northern Japan, on live television, on seven news channels, was the most surreal thing I've seen in a while. And it also meant we'll be hit. I'm in Manila, and we're safe as I write this, since we're not on the eastern seaboard where the Pacific waters lie. But it doesn't stop people here from panicking. We saw what happened in Indonesia six years ago. Probably live as well.

It's the dead hours of the morning in Montreal. Saturn can't sleep, worrying about his relatives here, who happen to be on the eastern seaboard. He's watching ANC online. I tell him to sleep. He won't, believing that he'll sleep better once he knows we're fine.

I get a message from Dinna, who's in Indonesia (as you probably know already), addressed to me and Valerie and Immie. She hopes we're fine. We're all fine, I reassure her.

I send Jackie a message. She's in Taiwan, or so I thought; she'd later tweet from Hong Kong, I think, asking about tsunami alerts in Taiwan.

I see Krizzie worrying about her relatives in California, and the surfing areas in Hawaii, partly (presumably) because she's been itching to get a surf-perfect body in time for the summer, or whatever's left of it here. And then she realizes that all of this is happening outside surf season, "which means winds aren't strong enough to build big, big waves," she tweeted.

I send Chiaki a message, asking if her relatives - she's Japanese, after all - are fine. She reassures me that they're fine, as far as she knows.

A stranger sends me a message. Someone from the David Cook community, I presume; someone who knows Dinna, and judging from the message, Immie and Valerie as well. Wishing us all fine. I consider sending a reply.

"We'll be fine. Thanks for the prayers!"

I send Rae a message, not expecting a reply, since she's probably busy helping out, being a sailor and all.

Saturn drops me another line. "I'm getting a few hours of shut eye, as long as you guys are all fine."

It's fascinating how small the world is now. I'm not sure if it's a good thing. One thing gets amplified more than it should be. That works both ways.  Maybe the Ring of Fire has broken off the planet and is now revolving independently around the sun. But, as I said, we'll be fine, unless something unforeseen happens, and heavens forbid it doesn't, because suddenly people will speak as if they're beside us, but act as if we're on opposite ends of the spectrum.

And your responses...

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