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I Feel the Earth Move Under my Feet…

Sitting in the Lev LaLev offices in Monsey, New York this afternoon we were all working away when I started to feel like the building was shaking slightly. I thought it was just a large truck passing so did not think much of it, until it didn’t stop after about 10 seconds.

I turned to ask our office manager extraordinaire, Chavi, if she felt the shaking too, she responded “Yeah, I do” with a confused look. Our Executive Director, Gavriel, soon jumped up and declared it was an earthquake. Chavi quickly ran, arms flailing, outside. Gavriel went to speak to our neighboring offices, and I stayed in my chair still disbelieving, after all it’s not too often we get earthquakes on the east coast of the US and I had never in my life experienced one.

The total event was only about 30 seconds and I was soon convinced that it was an earthquake, which originated in the state of Virginia, by the many updates on Facebook and Twitter. Of course I had to post and blog about my, hopefully, once in a lifetime experience, especially since, thank G-d, nothing was hurt; aside from a few shelves and windows at the epicenter. While Chavi expressed fear, Gavriel moved on to one of our donor’s generous campaign to benefit Lev LaLev in honor of his birthday: http://wishes.causes.com/wishes/357229, and I sat there smiling and exclaiming, “How cool was that!?”

I was overcome with the power of the Earth shaking! How amazing and awe-inspiring it was to feel so helpless to the motion of the tectonic plates of a planet suspended in space.

The Jewish Talmud, in Berachot 54a, tells us that whoever witnesses an earthquake —as well as a number of other natural phenomena in which G‑d’s awesome power is apparent —should immediately say either one of the following two blessings:

Baruch Atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha’olam
osei ma’asei Bereisheet.

translation: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who reenacts the works of creation.

Baruch Atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha’olam shekocho ugevurato malei olam.
translation: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, whose power and might fill the world.

This helps bring into focus how the forces of nature are all truly from G‑d and expressions of His majesty.

Our next thoughts were what to do if there ever is a next time for an earthquake. I’m sure those who live close to fault lines are taught this from very early on but the three of us in the office were soon Googling earthquake safety. So, according to FEMA, here is a list of things to know:

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. (sorry Chavi.)

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

It sure has been an interesting weather year worldwide, with a few rare tornadoes that struck the northeast only a few months back too, springtime snowstorms-not to mention LOTS of snow in warmer climates, droughts and wildfires and of course the tsunami that which still has Japan reeling.  As for why:  “Just when… it looks like you’re seeing a connection,” said John Wallace, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, “nature has a way of humbling us.”

  • As we enter the days leading up to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, a time of revaluation, I feel all shook up. Is G-d sending a sign for us to wake-up and remember that he is in control? It sure feels like a good time to pray for a peaceful year.

With love from the, now calm, offices of Lev LaLev,

Sheena Levi

Director of Outreach


P.S. Please share your earthquake experiences with us, comment below or join the conversation on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/levlalev

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