Thursday, April 8, 2010


Around Town: Keeping up with Jones and kids

It’s always reassuring, after an earthquake, to see La Cañada’s own Lucy Jones on the television, fielding inane questions from newscasters. (“Miss Jones, is this a wake-up call to Southern California?” “Is this a precursor to the Big One?”)

There’s a matter-of-fact quality to Jones’ responses, which inspires our calm consideration. We may die if the chimney collapses into the dining nook, but the inevitable would be accompanied by the clear knowledge that a blind-thrust fault can generate a slip-strike aftershock.

The Mexicali quake hit at 3:40 p.m. Sunday. I did not feel it. Within the hour, Jones, a Caltech seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, was on live broadcast with her calm assessment of the quake. The quake was centered about 110 miles east of Tijuana, Mexico, 10 miles below the surface. Jones soon upgraded the initial 6.9 estimate to 7.2. She said that 20 million people felt the quake, and that her team needed another hour or two to give more information.

This new media approach is impressive. Back in the day, we learned not to depend on the media after an earthquake. After the Oceanside quake in 1986, I rushed to the television to check the local news. There, I saw a wide-eyed newscaster, in obvious terror. He turned to the camera and said, “This is it! It’s the Big One.” My kids gasped, and I turned off the TV.

It’s more stressful with kids in the house. Why? Because you have to stay calm.

Running for the baby in the middle of the night, tripping over the cat, making sure the babies are safe — it can be stressful. No matter how scary, we moms must present the calm demeanor. We must project certitude and certainty.

We tell our children that they are safe. We tell them with our words and our gestures.

When we tell them to get under the table or the doorway, we exude a quiet confidence. Everything will be all right.

Afterward, we doggedly restock the emergency earthquake kit, filling it with canned spaghetti, water and battery-operated video games.

It is different when there are kids at home.

The kids take their cues from us. In 1994, a few days after the Northridge earthquake, my friend’s 4-year-old ran into our living room and, as if planning a lunch date, asked “Mom! What time is the next earthquake?”

“Why do you ask?” she said.

“I dunno,” he said.

And then he ran out, into the sunlight.

April 8, 2010 La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

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