“Did Someone Run Across Our Roof Again?”
An idiosyncratic response to Victoria’s earthquake
Three hours ago, Victoria experienced a 6.0 magnitude earthquake, centred on Mansfield, in the state’s north east. How did my partner and I react? We locked the doors, ran to each other and asked: “Did someone running over our roof again?”
The earthquake struck at 9:15 this morning. Dr Januka Attanayake, of the University of Melbourne’s Earthquake Seismology Earth Sciences unit, said it was probably the strongest earthquake Melbourne has experienced in 175–200 years. Where I live, just over 120km from the epicentre, we felt an extended earth tremour which shook our home, made the water in the swimming pool slosh and caused the clothes line to tremble. Betty’s Burgers on Chapel St in the city wasn’t so fortunate:
We had a local radio station on at the time, and soon started hearing accounts of people running outside, taking shelter in bathrooms, and taking other sensible earthquake-related precautions.
Our somewhat idiosyncratic response — locking the doors — was informed by an unfortunate experience in January 2020.
Precursor to that year
Knowing what else 2020 had in store, it was perhaps not surprising that it began dramatically for us. We were watching TV in our back room when we heard loud thumps from the roof.
Turning to each other in disbelief, one of us said: “Was that a possum?”
Later we agreed that it had sounded much too loud to be a small mammal, but at the time we were stumped as to what else it could be.
We ran outside and looked up, but didn’t see anything straight away.
The next thing we knew, two men ran into the backyard. One was brandishing a baseball bat. There was no doubt that he meant business.
They started yelling at us: “Where is he? Where did he go?”
I was terrified. My not-so-very useful reaction was to make placating downward gestures with my hands: “Sh, shhh.” (About as useful as a New South Wales Premier during a pandemic; all I can say in my defence is that I was terrified.)
My partner had figured out what had happened. “He’s not here. He’s gone. Get out.” He repeated this over and over, very firmly, pointing back towards the gate.
They ran through our backyard, searching it, then tore back through the gate.
We retreated inside. Peter called the police while I called my mother.
A few minutes later, my elderly neighbour called to me over the fence: “Catie, some bloke just ran across your roof!”
He came to our front door (ah, those good old pre-lockdown days when neighbours could visit each other) and told me what had happened.
The man who had run across our roof had banged on John’s door and asked him for shelter. John had told him to “bugger off” but the desperate man had run into his backyard, climbed up his washing line and onto our roof, leaving behind a black cap.
He then ran across our roof, across our back verandah onto our garage, then jumped down into the neighbour’s yard. Presumably he ran away from there.
The police came and took statements, and took away the cap which had fallen into John’s yard, but we never learned anything more about the incident. Even though we live on a sleepy street in a sleepy suburb, the most likely explanation seems to be a drug deal gone wrong.
Even though — thankfully — there were no knives or guns involved, we were both terrified by this incident. However, I had thought that I’d recovered from it, until this morning.
When we first heard the thudding sound of the building shaking, our hearts skedaddled and our minds relived those frightening moments. I’m sure we were the only two people in Victoria who thought it might be a person running across our roof.
A friend recently told me about a home invasion her sister experienced. A group of young people bashed down her front door and terrorised her family. Our incident is very minor in comparison; it barely rates a mention, really.
The take away
One of my sisters lives in a three story house closer to Melbourne’s CBD. I called her to check that she and the kids were OK.
“Lockdown, riots, and now an earthquake!” she exclaimed. “What next?”
We live in challenging times, and whether it’s the pandemic in general, extended lockdown in particular, the Melbourne riots happening as I type or an earthquake, we face emotional provocations every day. These emotional tolls build up. Taking time to find our equilibrium after unsettling events is no longer optional; it’s necessary for our well-being.
I wasn’t harmed by today’s events (hey, I wasn’t harmed by last January’s events, either!) but still I will nurture myself this afternoon: do an extra session of meditation, drink some herbal tea, watch something funny. I’ll keep my hands busy and monitor my thoughts and feelings.
In finding my equilibrium again, I settle my parasympathetic nervous system, making me better able to jump the next hurdle and handle my next encounter with resilience and grace.
Wherever you are today, whatever challenge you’re facing, I wish you well and hope that you, too, can recover your equilibrium.
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