TBS: The Nisqually Earthquake

A little Throwback Sunday for ya……and a departure from musings about SAR or writing.
People today are selling “earthquake alarms” that react to the initial upward thrust of an earthquake.  It buys people some time to get under their desks before the real shaking begins. Get one! On this day in 2001 I felt that “P-wave” and was already scooting under my desk when the rest of the Nisqually earthquake dropped by Sea-Tac Airport.
Sea-Tac Control Tower, 2/28/01
I remember shouting “get under your desks” because nobody understands “drop, cover and hold.” I remember a co-worker coming up to me later and saying “every desk I ran to already had somebody under it.”
I remember looking in the cubicle of a valued co-worker and seeing a heavy light fixture across the arms of his chair. He’d gone under his desk and was uninjured.
I remember being previously told “our office is in the part of the airport that will go first in an earthquake.” (I also remember that when it was finally demo’d for reconstruction, they had to call an extra trackhoe to rip it down.)
I remember that we told passengers to leave the building and go out on the elevated departure drive. I remember learning later that the number of people who can crowd into the space of a car…weigh more than a car.
I remember hanging up on a Washington, DC TV station because they’d falsely portrayed themselves as being NBC the network. As the airport spokesman, my interest was in talking to media who could actually reach the community our airport served.
I remember a carefully thought out media tour, approved by the incident commander, being thwarted by a carpenter who didn’t like reporters.
Sea-Tac Control Tower 2/28/01

Most of all, I remember looking out our office window and seeing pieces of the control tower outside. Why the whole structure didn’t come down through our ceiling is still a mystery.

For me, 9/11 was mostly a blur. I have only a few memories of that day. But the Nisqually Earthquake I remember like it was yesterday.

The 12th Essential

Early in my SAR career I was at a trailhead in King County readying Sierra for a hike. We weren’t searching. The hike was conditioning for me, and getting Sierra used to the normal sights and smells of the woods.

As I was getting her out of the truck and getting my own gear ready, two women across the parking lot kept looking at me.File Feb 12, 6 56 35 PM

Of course, I was the manly SAR expert, with the special pack for me and collar for the dog. Finally, they approached. Were they going to ask me about trail conditions? Some critical piece of information for enjoying their hike or staying safe?

“Sir, we just wanted to let you know you have a dryer sheet stuck to the back of your shirt.”

I never missed a beat. “That’s right ladies, I do. The wilderness is unforgiving, and you never know when a dryer sheet will save your life.”

Not even Sierra bought that, much less the ladies. But we all had a good laugh. If there’s anything better than a hike in the woods with your dog, it’s hiking with your dog while laughing.

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Once Again, Truth…..

….is stranger than fiction.

It’s no secret that in my first children’s book Sierra the Search Dog starts out being Sierra, the dog that wins at hide and seek.

Hide 2
Click on the link in the text to see video.


Here’s a YouTube video showing exactly that. It’s an overload of cute to begin with, and then Ollie the dog dimes out Mom and Dad as they play hide-and-seek with Junior.

Note how Ollie puts his nose to the opening between the closet door and the floor. There’s no doubt he used his nose to help win the game.

This also requires the young man to have understood what Ollie was doing, and investigate by opening the closet door. And yet we adults have trouble reading our dogs’ body language. Hmmm.

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What’s Ted look like?

This whole children’s book thing has been immensely fun. As a writer, I’m used to painting “word pictures,” but I’ve never had to deal with real pictures.TedCharacterStudy

“Sierra Becomes a Search Dog” is written, drawn and in the production stage. It’ll be for sale soon.  My artist Taillefer is now working on the second book in the series “Sierra The Search Dog Finds Fred.” In the story, Fred goes missing and his buddy Ted calls on Sierra to help find him.

The first question we have to ask is “What does Ted look like?” It’s called a character study, and we make sure each character’s appearance enhances their role in the story.

Taillefer dropped me the attached character study of Ted. Mary Ann and I laughed out loud (with joy) when we saw the picture. Grandparents reading the story will recognize Ted as an aging hippy, the kind of guy who might now work at a coffee shop or bakery. We think the kids will like his hair and moustache….and oh, those glasses.

Fred, however, will remain a secret until publication. After all, Sierra uses her nose to find him. If we plaster his picture all over like some kind of wanted poster, then just about anybody would be able to find him.

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