One night, when I was living in far-away New Zealand, I was getting ready for bed, when I heard a low rumble coming from outside. I didn’t think anything of it and went back to what I was doing. Seconds later the floorboards started to creak for no apparent reason and the light above my head began to sway. Before I knew it, the floor suddenly had a life of its own and I felt as if I were standing in the middle of the ocean with swelling waves. I had to grab the sink top in front of me to keep from falling over. I looked out into the living room and books were falling off the shelves while doors were opening and closing on their own.
I counted to five, expecting the movement to stop, but it seemed to get even worse. Then I remembered that the house I lived in was built on 1-foot-tall stilts. I instantly decided to try and make it outside. Pulling myself out of the bathroom I made it to the living room and attempted to walk to the front door. I’ve never had so much trouble walking in my entire life. The floor was reeling so much I couldn’t keep my footing. I pretty much tripped over myself until I grabbed onto the door handle and rushed outside. I stood there for over a minute hanging onto the door frame watching as everything rolled around.
The waves eventually slowed then stopped, turning into the solid ground that I had suddenly become so fond of. My first thought was of my family and hoping they were okay. My second thought was to laugh at myself because my family was thousands of miles away and likely not affected in the slightest. Later I learned the earthquake was a 7.8 that originated only a few hundred miles south. That experience taught me that the most important things in your life come to mind when disaster strikes. In my case it was the people closest to me.
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Today is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and I can only imagine the thousands of people who were having similar thoughts in those terrible moments. Disaster had come and loved ones were first on their mind. That day impacted the lives of so many families and changed the perspective of everyone who watched those towers fall. I was young when it happened and didn’t know exactly what I was seeing, but I remember how it affected my family and how we held each other closer that day.
After the earthquake experience in New Zealand, I came to realize that there were so many things I took for granted. There were people I needed to appreciate more, and every day gave me a chance to be a better person. Since then, I have tried to be grateful for what I have because I don’t know when things may suddenly change.
Rachel Birmingham is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and works as a Member Experience Officer at a local credit union. She can be reached at email@example.com.