Captain Grose's Adjutant pages

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EARTHQUAKE AFTERMATH

 

 
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(Note: This is the "unsatitized" version of my earthquake story. A slightly different version appeared in the base paper on October 29, 1999.)

All in a Day's Work of a Marine

1stLt Jason D. Grose
1st Tank Bn Adjutant

Hello everyone,

Let me start by telling everyone that Carrie, the kids, the cats, and I are perfectly fine after the earthquake. Well, the cats aren't so fine but the valium helps. Everyone here has a story and here is mine.

I was lucky enough to have the Officer of the Day watch because some jerk put me on duty. Oh, wait, I make out the duty roster. Anyway, like I said, I was on duty and had been up all night doing work since the place of duty happens to be in the same building where my office is.

I finally decided to hit the rack since absolutely nothing had happened and I had to march in a parade the next morning with Alex and the other Boy Scouts. I took off my boots, hid my pistol under my pillow, and jokingly told Cpl Westry, my phone watch, "You watch. Now that I finally decide to get some sleep, something crazy will happen." How prophetic.

I laid down and looked at my watch in order to know how long I had been sleeping when I woke up. My watch said exactly 0245.

At exactly 0246, the Earth started rumbling. Instantly I knew what was going on and I only faintly remember Cpl Westry asking what that noise was. I am not ashamed to say that I bolted like a cat on fire. I was not about being in a building during an earthquake and I ran for the door in a blur, leaving my pistol, my radio, my corporal, my courage, and my shadow, all behind.

When I got outside, I expected to see my corporal right behind me but he wasn't. He came out a few seconds later as I stood there on the sidewalk. Sorry, but in an earthquake, there are two kinds of people: the fast and the buried.

We both stood there and watched the world move for about 10 more seconds. The palm trees and the telephone poles swayed back in forth as the guttural sound of the earth moving filled our ears. Suddenly, there was a bright flash to our left and when we looked, we just saw a big ball of light on the horizon. At the same time, all the lights went out on and off base. We were utter darkness and the quake continued for a couple of more seconds.

When it finally stopped, we both went inside. My socks were soaked because the sprinklers had watered the cement (as they always seem to do). I tried to call my house in the dark but no one answered. I realized that not having a flashlight was an oversight I would have to change in the future.

I remembered that there were some light sticks and a spare set of socks down the hall in my office. I blindly walked barefooted down the hall, feeling my way along the wall. I got to my office and groped for the chem. lights and got my socks on. I could tell that a few things were moved around but no major damage. I got my socks and boots on and made my way down the hall where I noticed that the linoleum floor was covered in broken glass from pictures that had fallen. How I made it down that hallway without cutting my feet in the dark, I still can't figure out.

As I finished getting dressed, the phone rang and it was the executive officer. We talked for a minute and he gave me some instructions. I told him I was headed toward the barracks to check on all of the troops. Walking there, I wondered what I would do and say. When I got there, it was a lieutenant's nightmare: about 200 drunken Marines wandering about, some of them in their underwear. It was payday and the bars had just closed. I had no idea what to do but I was the only officer and the duty so it was my responsibility.

A slightly drunk sergeant came to me and said that he had them all out and that he had told them they could not go back in for at least three hours. He made it a point of explaining his obviously inebriated logic but I had other things to do. I called for the duty NCOs and told them I wanted a count. I also wanted each of the duties to go room to room to see if there was anybody hurt or still sleeping. There was another barracks I had to check on so went over there. In the meantime, the guard had contacted PMO per my instructions and they gave the go ahead to get them back in the barracks. According to them, they were safer in the barracks than outside it. I begged to differ but I was not about to explain my own reservations involving buildings and moving ground.

When I returned, the sergeant had a large formation, calling dress right dress, and treating it like a drill exhibition. The sheer humor of a bunch of drunk, scantily clad Marines trying to cover and align was priceless. Then someone smarts off and this sergeant pulls him out of formation and starts to berate him. Both being drunk, they had to be stopped. I pulled them apart and left it to two other sober NCOs to take care of it.

Addressing the formation, I asked if there were any injuries and after ensuring everyone was OK, I sent them back into the barracks. The sergeant then made it a point to assure me that everything was being taken care of and that he would take care of things from there. "You do that."

I bet he was asleep within minutes.

When I returned, Cpl Westry says that the phone was ringing off the hook. I instructed him to beef up the guard by the armory and have them check for any hazardous material spills, electrical fire hazards, and any other potential dangers. I had to check the office spaces down the hall.

Since the power was still out, the end of the building I was checking was pitch black. The light stick was my only source of light. As I passed the copier machine that had made its way to the middle of the hallway, sounds filled the silence. I nearly jumped out of my skin but all that had happened was that the power had come back on and both the ventilation and the copier came to life. Hey, it was a scary moment, OK!

All the office spaces I checked were a mess. Pictures were off the wall and everything that was on a desk was knocked off. The collection of battalion trophies hit the deck and neither Cpl Westry nor I can remember the horrendous sound that it must have made.

Carrie finally called and she tells me that her and the kids were OK. The power was out so she could not fully assess the damage but there was broken glass. Also, both of the TVs had taken a header, face first. The glass did not break but without electricity, she could not turn them on. The kids handled it well and Carrie got to their room quickly and calmed them down. They went outside and it turned out to be a "block party."

I spent the rest of the morning inspecting areas, fielding phone calls, and making entries in the logbook. I had to call everyone in the inspect their own work areas and start cleaning up. Overall, the damage was not too bad and absolutely no one got hurt. The entire city was up for the night so the parade the next day was pretty sparse. Nothing but a few dozen aftershocks was of note.

Our only casualties at home were a few picture frames and our brand new $600 32" TV that now has a nice big circular rainbow pattern where it hit. The insurance (that damn company we pay a lot of money to each month) thinks that despite that considerable amount, we must pay the first $4000 in damages when an earthquake hits. I plan to send a little surprise involving the next monthly bill and a not-so-unplanned lack of toilet paper. Contributions to the "Panasonic Memorial Fund" can be sent in cash, check, or money order to my address.

Of all the nights to have duty!!



 
 
 
 

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