When The Earth Moved

“Did the earth move for you?”

Could six otherwise tame looking words that make up an equally tame phrase ever have as much innuendo packed into them?

Interestingly, the term originated from For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway although, as is so often the case, the actual words spoken are different to those that we all delight in saying to this day whenever the opportunity arises. In the book, Hemingway’s leading gentleman is in conversation with his good lady love and enquires of her, ‘But did thee feel the earth move?”

I bet you didn’t know that. But you do now. But look, there is a link to this week’s blog with those famous words and it’s to do when the earth really did move for me.

As well as, I hasten to add, quite a few others.

It happened whilst I was in Mexico in 2021.

Mexico is a country I’ve got to know really well over the last couple of years or so. It isn’t one that immediately comes to the tip of most people’s tongue whenever they’re asked which place in the world would they most like to go and visit but, for all that, I’d heartily recommend they consider Mexico as an option.

But be warned: it’s not somewhere you can ‘do’ in a week. Mexico is an enormous country, the fourteenth largest in the world to be exact (the UK, by way of contrast, is the eightieth!) covering an area of approximately 762,000 square miles into which are packed just over 126 million people.

So it’s not only a big country, it’s also a very busy one!

But look, what a place to visit. I could write page after page extolling the virtues of Mexico to you all but will, at this point, mention, in passing, just the one. Which is Acapulco, the city on Mexico’s Pacific coast where, as the song clearly states, you may well find yourself in danger of going ‘loco’ if you are there for very long. But no wonder. Its sunshine 24/7 there with lots of beautiful beaches to lose yourself in as well as the opportunity to spend time with some of the most fun loving people you’ll ever meet.

Acapulco. Beautiful. (Shutterstock)

But I digress-again. Because I am here to tell you about when the earth moved for me, something that most certainly happened back in September last year, when Mexico was hit by a severe earthquake that had its epicentre close to that part of the Pacific coast where I was enjoying myself so much.

I was in my hotel room at the time and, of course, if you’re not used to earthquakes (and Norfolk isn’t exactly renowned for them) then its takes you a few seconds to register exactly what is going on when not only the room but the building you are in starts to shake from side to side, giving you the sort of feeling you might have if you were in a box of Corn Flakes that someone had given a vigorous shape prior to opening it.

It was a little bit like a horror movie to be honest. Things falling off walls and surfaces, lights flickering on and off whilst various car and building alarms all kicked off as well, adding to the general cacophony.

I was sat on my bed to start with but then thought that it might have been a better idea for me to get out of the hotel as quickly as possible as I was quite a few floors up and did think, for a few moments, that there was a very real danger that the whole thing might have collapsed. So I made my way to the main staircase, feeling not at all encouraged by the very large cracks that were beginning to appear in all of the walls.

Earthquake damage to an apartment building in Mexico (Shutterstock)

Was I frightened? Yes I was, most definitely. I defy anyone not to be in such circumstances but, on top of all that fear, the partial sense of relief I felt when I arrived down at the hotel foyer, with everything still moving around me, were the reports and claims that a tsunami had been triggered by the earthquake and was now making its way towards the city, my hotel included.

So, stay put and risk being drowned or head for the upper floors to escape the waters but then also run the risk of being inside the building when, as I was sure it would, collapsed to the ground.

Luckily, those reports turned out not to be accurate but, even so, it was a big earthquake, registering up to 7.4 on the Richter Scale, that main quake then being followed by a series of smaller ones.

I was able to drive back to Mexico City the next day amidst sights that you might more readily have associated with Hollywood. There was debris everywhere, roads were closed, buildings were damaged, some so seriously that they didn’t as much exist as buildings any more than a pile of rubble. Plus, scattered throughout the countryside was an assortment of large rocks, some as big as a car, that had obviously been displaced from various hill or mountainsides to make their destructive way downwards towards what was now going to be, at least temporarily, a new resting place.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sheer scale of the unfolding scene, it was, of course, terrible to look at with one hand, so much destruction and, of course, loss of life, thirteen in total, but, on the other hand, it was compulsive viewing, proof on a colossal scale of just how delicate our lives are and how, in minutes, the actions that originate deep within the earth can change not only people’s lives forever, but also that of a city or even a country.

Something that goes way, way beyond extraordinary.

Yet for all that, and as frightening and humbling an experience as it was, its one I am glad that I have had.

If only to remind me of just how small and insignificant we all are.

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