On November 30, 2018, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska, just 10 miles north of Anchorage. (That, if you don’t know, is a REALLY STRONG EARTHQUAKE.) Nineteen members of my family live in Anchorage (both my parents, three of my siblings and their spouses, and 11 of my nieces and nephews). There were over 30 aftershocks that day, including several with magnitudes of over 5.0 (which are properly strong earthquakes in their own right).
To say that it was an incredibly scary, awful day is a woefully inadequate understatement. My kids were at their grandma’s house that day and I was supposed to be working but instead I just sat at my computer and cried, scrolling Facebook for news and updates and wishing (illogically I know) that I could be there, suffering with them, rather than safe and sound in my boringly clean and intact house on the other side of the country.
Thankfully, within about 45 minutes of the quake (and just minutes after I found out what had happened), I was able to get in touch with my family and so I knew very quickly that everyone was physically OK. They all had some scary stories to tell (driving while electrical transformers exploded nearby for example) but all were safe and for that I was (and am) so grateful.
As the day continued though, I started to hear the sad stories of pottery collections destroyed, vintage Pyrex lost forever, glass and juice and milk intermingling on a kitchen floor, and it was almost more than I could take not being able to do anything to help.
What can one person do when her loved ones are suffering nearly 4000 miles away? Well, not much in the moment but pray and leave love-filled Facebook comments but when she knows how to quilt, she can make quilts.
And so, about a week later, I hatched a plan to sew everyone a quilt, for any future earthquakes (of which there have been SO many more over the past year) and for any time they were sad (or cold!).
Knowing that we would all be together in the summer (August 2019), I set myself the goal of sewing six quilts (one each for my mom, dad, and the families of my four siblings) to be finished in time to give out at the family reunion. One of my brothers does not live in Anchorage (they live in Northern Ireland) but I figured they probably need love just as much as any of us, right? And so the “Earthquake Consolation” series was launched.
I backed them with flannel (to be extra warm and cuddly) and poured my love into every stitch.
Numbered in age order (my mom being the 2nd oldest member of our family)
I so loved watched everyone wrap themselves up in their quilts, of course couldn’t help but cry as I explained why I’d made them, and then loved watching the cousins use them. I’m sure the white stripes won’t be white for long and I’m glad. I hope they don’t ever have to get used for a big earthquake again but who doesn’t need to wrap themselves in love every so often, earthquake or not?
I especially love seeing my brother and I hugging in the background of this picture.
On November 30, 2019, my brother Chris posted a couple pictures of us with their quilt and wrote, ” My sister made us all Earthquake Quilts as a way of processing how scared and helpless she felt after the 7.1 earthquake we experienced a year ago today. It was honestly a pretty traumatic couple of weeks (no thanks to the literally hundreds of aftershocks) but at least we got a beautiful quit out of it, right?” I hadn’t actually thought of my making these quilts as a way for me to process my feelings because I was so focused on conveying my love to my family but he’s right. It did feel right and good to be doing something tangible after feeling so helpless and useless. And so, in the end, we all got something out of this process – for them, beautiful quilts and for me, purpose and usefulness (and some therapy!). And now, I need to make one more of these – for my family! We probably shouldn’t be the only ones without an Earthquake Quilt!
For more on the process and all the nerdy, quilty details, please see this post.
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You are truly wonderful. I think this is the sweetest thing and I’m so glad that the process did help you through those feelings of helplessness and worry.
It’s so hard to be far away when a place and people you love are rocked by tragedy.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Dani! I know you understand what it’s like to live far away from family. ❤
Such a beautiful story and message Laura!! And so great to see familiar faces covered with smiles!! Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much for this, Cathy! I didn’t see it when you replied a month ago but I really appreciate hearing from you now! ❤