(Continued from Part One)
As far as we could tell, our house suffered only minor damage from the big earthquake, though downtown in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the central plaza was cordoned off while damage was assessed and cleared. And in nearby Guánica and other towns, the effects were far more profound. Homes were gone, schools were flattened, people were sleeping outside in fear of further quakes. The people we knew locally were all okay.
Here’s a map showing the epicenter of the quakes, and Ponce, where we were.
Small tremors continued, but we did our best to take them with equanimity, while we got back to our business of scraping and painting, and making numerous small repairs. Our dogs at home were going to spend more time in the doggie hotel than planned, but we were fortunate enough to get our flights changed so that Allysen and Jayce would leave later on the same day as originally scheduled, and I would be on their flight. The only hitch was, we were now driving to San Juan to catch our flight home; but on the plus side, we were leaving at a civilized hour during the day, and not at 5 a.m.
Local entertainment was provided in the form of young stray cats wandering through the property, and once a patrol of dogs that got in through the fence. (For my animal report, see here.)
Another big thumper, a 6.0 quake, struck on the morning of our last day in Puerto Rico. It shook the house alarmingly, as we were engaged in a frantic race to finish final repair projects, clean up, get everything put away, and get on the road for the two-hour drive to San Juan. It was scary, but everything seemed okay, and we got right back to work.
Our last two days had been spent in the traditional way: working to frayed nerves to get painting projects done (Allysen and Jayce), feverishly finishing various small repairs (me), and with mutters of resignation moving onto the list for next year the things we didn’t get done this year. The power was out again, because of a blown transformer downtown that knocked out our neighborhood. Our little generator-that-could was reserved for the fridge and microwave and phone chargers. Fixing things by flashlight! That’s the ticket! Do, or do not. There is no try. Hope it all looks good in daylight.
From the various quakes, we suffered some minor (we hope) cracks in extremities of the house. But after that final one in the morning, Frances next door reported seeing a building collapse downtown, from her terrace vantage point. Many damaged structures will probably have to be knocked down. Still another quake hit that evening, but we were already winging our way northward at 530 mph, and heard about it later.
Throughout this ordeal, our personal suffering was largely limited to sleepless nights and repeatedly having the bejesus scared out of us as our concrete and cinder-block house (built by Allysen’s dad to exacting standards) shook and shuddered and swayed around us. But for others nearby, the costs were physical and dire. Folks still getting back on their feet from Hurricane Maria got slammed once more by nature. Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes are not a part of the normal life of Puerto Rico. It is a cruel irony that the area hardest hit by Maria was also at the center of the quake activity. This beautiful island needs help. It’s part of the United States, and it deserves to be treated that way.
Coming home from a trip, especially a work trip, is always a great relief to me. But never have I been so eager to get home as from this one. I woke up this morning, earlier than I wanted, and couldn’t get back to sleep even in the comfort of my own bed. With every quiver of our three-story wood-frame house, I thought, It’s just the wind, just the wind. Is it an earthquake? No, no, it’s just the wind.