8/27/2008

Duck, Cover, and Hold!


I am no stranger to earthquakes. This country has had so many of them—small, medium, large—during my lifetime. By grace, the devastation doesn’t overstay.


But I am a stranger to earthquake drills!

So when I get this one-page “Job Responsibility” for the faculty one day this month, I read it over a dozen times.

I am to instruct my one dozen students to “duck, cover, and hold” once the bullhorn sounds (the start of the make-believe tremor). Then I herd them down from the 5th floor (top floor in our school) to safety—in the parking lot in two minutes, or less.

We are the last priority. We have to wait for all the students in the lower floors to go down before we do.

How did it go?

Well, the power shuts off on cue. But instead of cries of dread, I hear cries of delight. Not one cowers in fear; everyone swaggers with cheer. All, including me, defies the order to “take off your shoes!” High heels click in lazy cadence as though they are headed to a ball not to safety. Indeed, the world of make-believe is blind to fear and dread.

We make it to the open space in six minutes, triple the original intended time. If we had a real earthquake, we would have been buried in the rubble.

So everyone gets to the parking lot under the bright morning sun. The fair-skinned ones immediately get a tan, while brown-skinned moi rushes under the nearest tree.

It takes a while—a lot more laughing, chattering, and ribbing—before the building is “declared safe” and we file in, exactly the way we strolled out, my students and I tailing the boisterous pack.

Duck, cover and hold? It was more like shake, rattle, and roll!

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