Facebook was flashing earthquake news for several hours last night. Many residents of this area from Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana were rattled, to say the least. Some missed at least parts of the show, including Bill and me.
We're planning to sell our new old motor home, so Bill decided to pull it out of the shop where it spent the winter and take it for a spin. Dogs were ecstatic.
They think they OWN the new travel trailer, and nobody has to call when there's a chance for them to ride around the neighborhood in the motor home.
"Better bring your cell phone," Bill advised as we prepared to take off. He knows how important it is to have communication to the outside world when the new old motor home decides to die in the middle of a road.
Well, last night, as we were cruising down the highway at 60-plus, Bill looked at the speedometer, slowed down and remarked, "Gee, this is operating better than ever."
"Yeah, you know how pigs are when they sense the slaughter house," I responded as we passed Wood's Meat Co. They get really friendly. This rig is probably sensing that it might lose its happy home so it's on its best behavior."
In the meantime, three doggies traveled back and forth in the aisle, jumped on to cushions, looked out windows and sometimes even snoozed as we went from Selle Road to Samuels Road, south on Colburn-Culver and back on Selle Road.
We were in the Samuels area when I saw the first comment on Facebook from Toby McLaughlin, asking if anyone "felt that," stating that it was like an earthquake.
"I'm not kidding," he added.
Dozens of similar comments and some "expletives" suddenly lit up the social media.
Upon reading all the comments, I became a bit disgruntled.
We WERE having a good time in the motor home, but to have missed the earthquake. I kinda felt cheated.
While returning home on Selle Road, I called my sister in Colburn and asked her how the quake felt. Well, she didn't know cuz she was grading papers and had felt nothing.
Of course, they have trains going by their house dozens of times daily so they may have been aware but thought it was just another train.
It was fun to read the comments and later the official news stating that the quake was somewhere near Hayden about 40 miles south of Sandpoint. Later, it was pinpointed as a 4.1 quake near the mountains on the east side of Lake Pend Oreille.
My disappointment at missing the quake would be short-lived because I definitely got spooked out by the second big rumble which hit around 10:30 p.m.
Sounded like a fierce wind hammering at the house, and it was weird.
To make sure we weren't imagining things, I once again went to Facebook. Once again, it was lighting up with observations, this time a bit more ominous in nature. "Queasy, dizzy, I'm scared," replaced the somewhat awed reaction to the first quake.
In particular, I noticed Kay Kiebert's deep concern. She lives out at Hope. Later we learned that the second quake occurred much closer to our area than the first. Officially, it was listed as a 4.2 magnitude and nine miles east of Sandpoint.
Later, I thought about Kay who knows personally and very sadly the horrific consequences of being within a quake zone.
No wonder she was scared, I thought, remembering an afternoon sitting in the living room of her Aunt Irene's home in Hope.
While writing her responses on a yellow legal pad, tears welled up in my eyes as Irene, a retired school teacher, related an emotional story that consumed her life from the summer of 1959 until her dying day.
Irene survived the Yellowstone Earthquake that summer.
Most of her family did not.
This morning someone on Facebook reminded me and others who have reacted to last night's spooky rumblings of nature as pretty darned scary-----that earthquakes in other regions of the country and world are common phenomena.
True. But it's all relative. This is not earthquake territory.
I can remember feeling the effects of maybe four or five earthquakes total in my life of nearly 68 years. Their epicenters were hundreds of miles away, in most cases.
So, just like our shock at the ferocious wind storms that ravaged so much of this area last summer, we're just not used to such things.
And, because we experience these events so rarely, we probably take the lesson that someone else is definitely in charge of this earth much more seriously.
Yes, this is my theory of relativity with earthquakes. Our reaction and respect is all relative to the experience itself or to the people we know who have gone through much more horrific experiences than we have ever encountered.
So, after being rattled a bit overnight, I do want to share the story I wrote for the Spokesman-Review back in the late 1990s after my emotional visit with Kay Kiebert's Aunt Irene.
by Marianne Love
for the Spokesman-Review
Irene Bennett Dunn visited Montana’s Madison Valley last week to close the final chapter of the tragic story she’s been reliving daily and planning to write for 36 years.
Clutching kleenexes and seated in her house near Hope this week, the 75-year-old retired Clark Fork Elementary teacher said her first trip back to the scene where three of her four children and her first husband died went according to plan.
“I kept saying we’ll do the emotional part. Then we’ll have fun,” she said. “It helped a lot to prepare.”
Irene and husband Jack accompanied her only living son Phil and his wife to the Earthquake Area and Interpretive Center near Ennis to visit monuments to 28 people who, on Aug. 17, 1959, died in one of the most severe earthquakes (7.8 on the Richter Scale) ever recorded in North America.
The catastrophe sent giant waves rushing down the narrow Madison Canyon where Irene’s family were sleeping. It also unloaded 80 million tons of rock from a 7,600-foot mountain into the river, hurling campers against trees, cars, trailers or the canyon wall.
Purley and Irene Bennett, along with Carole (17), Philip (16), Tom (11) and Susan (6) had set off from Dalton Gardens on a camping vacation. After visiting relatives in Hope, the family headed east in their green Ford station wagon, undecided on whether to go to Canada or Yellowstone.
“I want to see the animals,’” Irene remembers her youngest saying. “Everybody then agreed to go to Yellowstone.” The trip included a day in Virginia City.
“We did all the fun things and pulled into camp late,” she said. The whole family slept on top of a rented tent.
“At 11:37, I heard a loud bang. The earth began to shake,” Irene recalled. “My husband got up. . . I saw him grab a tree. . . that’s all I remember.”
Later, vague sensations of being under water and pinned beneath a tree on a sandy bank prompted the lifelong Protestant to pray.
“I saw the moon was out. It was a brilliant moon,” she explained. “I recited the ‘121st Psalm,’ my favorite: Lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. . . .”
The night of horror was just beginning. Calling in vain for her family, Irene dug her way free only to discover she couldn’t stand up. Her leg was broken. She crawled back and covered herself with branches.
“I just stayed there until morning; then I called and called until I heard an answer,” she explained. The welcome response came from Phil, badly hurt with head and leg injuries, but crawling toward the crumpled station wagon when he heard his mother.
The only two survivors in the area were eventually taken to Ennis Community Hospital, but not before Irene learned of her husband’s fate.
“I prayed that the children would be alive, but they would slowly find a body,” she recalled. “. . . Carole, then Tom. It was a long time before they found Susan. I prayed for her to be alive, yet I worried about her being out there by her little self.”
Relatives held a memorial service while Irene and Phil recuperated. The two eventually returned to Coeur d’Alene where Phil finished high school and Irene earned a provisional teaching certificate. In 1961, she married her high school sweetheart Jack Dunn, a dairy farmer from Hope. Phil now works for Boeing Computer Systems.
Last week’s journey back provided a bittersweet ending to the book Irene intends to write for herself and others suffering tragedy.
“We’ll never forget them, but we’ll go on with our lives with the family we’ve acquired,” she said. “We ARE a family again.”
Special Note: Irene later published a book about her experience. Her memoir Out of the Night: A Story of Tragedy and Hope from a Survivor of the 1959 Montana-Yellowstone Earthquake can be found on www.amazon.com