Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"I feel the earth move under my feet..."

I lived in British Colombia when I was in the sixth grade. And instead of fire drills, we had earthquake drills. I'm pretty sure the school was still capable of burning to the ground, but no one seemed too concerned. The risk of the walls shaking was of greater importance.

My classroom was in a portable. I remember the teacher pointing out the seam down the center of the floor, the very place where the box I called homeroom would split in two. My desk straddled this line. I was going to die.

The drills had us diving under our desks at the sound of an alarm. And then, when the fictional quake subsided, we would walk out the back door in single file, and line up in an open field. Two students were assigned to grab the emergency kits at the back of the portable. These were large duffel bags filled with the necessities required to calm your average trauma-overcome 11-year-old.

There was a Ziploc bag for each student. In this bag was a mini care package: a granola bar, a family portrait, and a love note from parents. I assumed it was an "in case your parents die and you want to cling to a generic note of affirmation while chewing on some sticky carbs" package. I would only read the letter if I was the sole survivor. And so I hoped that granola bar would go stale. And that the letter would go unread. And that the photo was at least somewhat flattering. Yes, at 11, I wanted to look good, bright blue corduroys and all.

The earthquake didn't come. And we all survived British Columbia.


michael lewis said...

You've got to be joking!

(Do you still have the note and/or photo?)

nadine said...

I don't think we ever got the notes or photos back. They're probably all archived somewhere. Which would be a fascinating read: the goodbye letters from parents who didn't die.