Girls are quiet, boys cause earthquakes

Was thinking about an event that occurred in Seattle in April, 1965. I, and all my brothers and sisters, attended a Catholic elementary school called St. John’s, located in the Greenwood district. St John’s Church was situated on the same parcel of land as the school, and mass was celebrated there each day before classes began.

On the morning of April 29th, 1965, I was attending mass alone, that is, not with my class, and I was sitting in the very last pew of the church. Children in the  lower grades sat in the front pews with their teachers – boys on St Joseph’s side,  girls on Mary’s side.  Mass had just ended when  there was loud rumbling throughout the nave  and I heard Sister Mary St. Martha say, “You boys stop that noise!”  I caught sight of something moving overhead, and looked up to see the huge glass-and-brass lamps swaying back and forth in the highly arched, Romanesque-styled ceiling of the church. Even as a mere 6th grader I knew that the boys weren’t rowdy enough to cause that kind of disruption! I guessed that this was an earthquake, and since I was in the back pew of the church, I ran out the main doors and headed for the steps to the street. As I exited the church I saw that everything was rolling with a wave-like movement – the brick walls of the church, the wrought iron railing, the cement  landing upon which I was trying to stand. I was questioning if I could get safely down all 10 church steps  while they were in motion, when everything stopped. I looked in amazement around me, and tried to decide if it was okay to move down to the sidewalk or not; I could see that the steps had cracked, and that bricks and other debris  lay on the ground. I really don’t recall the particulars of what happened at school after this, but I do know that we, and all students throughout the city, were sent home  so that authorities could determine the extent of damage to school structures. When all of my family got home that day we  had plenty of stories to share about where we were when the earthquake struck.  Mom laughed out loud when I repeated what Sister had said in church to the boys.

Later that day, we learned from the news stations that Seattle and the surrounding area had experienced an earthquake that registered 6.5 on the Richter scale, which is quite a substantial earthquake. Recalling Sister Mary St. Martha’s reprimand to the students at the start of the earthquake, I asked Mom,  “Think  Sister will ever admit that it wasn’t the 4th grade boys that caused all the commotion?” Mom just smiled. Guess I’ll never know.

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