The tremor hit this afternoon at 2:30pm. The floor began to undulate under my feet. Then people started to yell one by one--"It's an earthquake!"
Few ran. We were working on the 24th floor in an office tower in Hangzhou. Perhaps others were as scared as I was, but there's no time to get down to the ground floor anyway. Despite my nausea from the unsteady floor, I also had the vague confidence that if the first shock did not take down the building, the aftershocks would not kill us either.
The minutes felt VERY long.
It was half an hour later when I really got scared shitless--the news arrived that Chengdu, my hometown, was very close to the epicenter. My parents are in Hong Kong but I still had many relatives and friends there. Calls would not go through. Little update on the Internet on the damage. For a while, there's only my imagination concocting the worst possible scenario.
Alas, who the f*** cares for office politics, stock options, career plan, Olympic torch, the controversies around the Torch Relay, Chinese politics, ethnic tensions in China, or the incomprehensibility of blatant patriotism when all one could think of is the safety, the bare minimum of safety, for one's loves ones?
Finally relatives messaged back that they were safe.
Throughout the rest of the day, friends and colleagues messaged and inquired about my family in Chengdu, from Beijing, Shanghai and as far as the US. Everyone in the office was greatly saddened by the rising death toll in the epicenter. Government is organizing disaster relief. Soldiers and armed police, the proud tools of proletarian dictatorship, are moving in to help.
The news reports were genuine. People's concerns and willingness to help were genuine.
Perhaps we should have mild aftershocks everyday to remind us that everything else is kinda stupid, compared to our own vulnerability and the well-being of our loved ones faced with this vulnerability.