May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As people who live in the Tri-State area, we are confused by earthquakes. Our thing is blizzards. Though not recently.

So the recent earthquake left us with a lot of questions, ranging from, “What was that?” to “What if it comes back?”

Hence this FAQ, although not that frequent, baruch Hashem:

Wait, you’re writing about this now? This happened weeks ago!

Well, I was going to write about it before the earthquake happened, but The Link was doing eclipses that week. Also, if the Tri-State area got it a few weeks ago, Baltimore and Canada are probably going to get it around now. So if you have a relative in Baltimore or Canada, you can still let them know.

Additionally, I feel like we in the Northeast don’t know a lot about earthquake safety, so we should really review it from time to time. And by “from time to time,” I mean “Immediately after the previous one happens, but way before the next one happens.”

When did the last one happen?

According to records, the last time an earthquake this strong hit the area was in 1884. So you never know. Another 140 years can be over before you know it.

Where were you when the recent quake happened?

I was playing with an Etch-a-Sketch.


No. I was in the kitchen, doing stuff for Shabbos, and I felt vibrations. So I looked at my son, and he looked at me and said, “What’s happening?” and I said, “It feels like an earthquake, but first let’s check if there’s a heavy truck driving by.” So I looked outside, and by then the quake had stopped, though some workers about a block away were repaving the street, and I wondered if it could have been them.

So how did you find out it was an earthquake?

I looked it up, obviously. “Was that an earthquake?” which is what experts recommend as the first thing you do in an earthquake. And I couldn’t find any results. All I found was a question at the top of the search page that said, “There have been reports of a possible earthquake near Tewksbury. Did you feel it?” And there were 3 options to click: “Yes,” “No” and “Unsure.” So I clicked “Unsure” because I wasn’t going to start looking up where Tewksbury was, and whether it was even in New Jersey or four states over.

But then a few minutes later, my wife turned on the radio, and it was on this call-in talk show, and random people had called in to talk to the host about the earthquake. And not a single one of them had anything meaningful to say except, “I thought it was a truck driving by.” Then why did you call in? To say this? This taught me two things: #1, we need to do something about our trucks, and #2, none of these callers were from the city, because everyone there thought it was a subway.

“Wait. Does the subway run under our house?”

What did they think it was when this happened in the old days?


In fact, the only people who weren’t immediately wondering, “Is that a truck driving by?” were the earthquake experts. They were thinking, “Yes, finally! There’s an earthquake up here! I thought I wasted my life.” It’s like they were working at the earthquake bureau, which is on the west coast somewhere, and they were not great at their job, and then they came to their boss and said, “Where should I be stationed?”

“New Jersey. Stay on high alert over there. You’re all we’ve got.”

But now he’s like, “It’s my time to shine!” And then we got an emergency alert two hours after the quake.

People are saying this earthquake was a 4.8. Such a high number and that’s all we felt? Don’t they only go up to 9?

Basically, earthquakes fall into six categories, and we got the third, which is the one where you think it’s a truck going by, which is just above the ones where someone asks, “Did you feel that earthquake?” and you say, “What earthquake?” but just below the ones where books start falling off the shelves, which will never happen in your house because your kids push the books as far back as they can, for fun. Though I imagine if you work in a seforim store, it’s a nightmare.

Where do the most earthquakes happen?

I’m no etymologist, but I would say earth. If you’re not on earth, you’re probably okay. Though there’s probably something else you have to worry about.

No, I mean where should I live if I want to avoid earthquakes?

It doesn’t matter. There’s nowhere you can live where no natural phenomenon can get to you if Hashem wants it to. That’s how life works. At best, you can pick which one it’s most likely to be. Unesaneh Tokef gives you options.

You don’t pick a location to live based on natural disasters. You pick a place like everyone else does, based on walking distance to shuls. And your ability to make conversation on the way home from those shuls.

“I thought it was my dryer acting up.”

Anyway, we’re going to stop here, because we’re almost out of space.

We are? But I still have more frequently asked questions!

That’s a frequently asked question?


Okay, then join us again next week as we look into how earthquakes happen and what to do in case of an earthquake.

What do we do if an earthquake happens before then?

Okay, here’s the procedure, in short:

  1. Stop moving in case it’s you.
  2. Wonder if there’s a truck going by.
  3. Look up, “Was that an earthquake?”
  4. Wait 20 minutes and look it up again.
  5. Wait 2 hours for an emergency alert from the government.

Post this in a good place to read it in case of an emergency, such as under your sturdy furniture.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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