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earthquake

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On Friday, April 5, a 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit north-central New Jersey and was reported as having been felt across the tri-state area — including across our communities. An earthquake of this magnitude has not hit the East Coast since 2011, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia shook areas across New York. 

Experiencing an earthquake can be a disorienting and unnerving event, as it involves the sudden movement of the Earth’s surface caused by the release of energy in the Earth’s crust. 

For those who have experienced an earthquake, the sensation is often described as a sudden jolt or shaking, sometimes accompanied by a rumbling sound. Initially, there may be a feeling of confusion or disbelief as the ground begins to move unexpectedly.

As the earthquake progresses, the intensity of the shaking can vary, ranging from mild tremors to violent jolts. Buildings and structures may sway or vibrate, causing objects to rattle and shift. The ground itself may undulate or roll, creating a sensation akin to being on a boat or riding a wave.

During a seismic event, individuals may feel a range of physical sensations, including dizziness, nausea or difficulty maintaining balance. It’s not uncommon for people to experience heightened anxiety or fear, especially if they are unfamiliar with earthquakes or if the shaking persists for an extended period.

In some cases, the intensity of the earthquake may be strong enough to cause damage to buildings and infrastructure, leading to collapsed structures, fallen debris and potential hazards such as ruptured gas lines or downed power lines.

It’s important to note that each earthquake is unique, and the experience can vary widely depending on factors such as proximity to the epicenter, building construction and personal resilience. Regardless of the magnitude or duration of the earthquake, it’s essential to remain calm, take protective action and follow established safety procedures to minimize the risk of injury and ensure personal safety.

Be prepared in the event of an earthquake

If you’re indoors, move away from windows, glass doors and exterior walls to avoid injury from shattered glass or falling objects. 

If you’re outdoors, move to an open area away from buildings, trees, streetlights and utility wires. Drop to the ground and cover your head and neck with your arms until the shaking subsides.

Be mindful of potential hazards such as tall furniture, bookcases and heavy objects that could topple over during an earthquake. 

Identify safe zones within your home or workplace, such as sturdy doorframes or interior walls, where you can seek shelter. 

Prepare an emergency kit with essential supplies, including water, nonperishable food, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio and a whistle. 

Establish a communication plan with your household members or neighbors to coordinate actions during an earthquake or other emergencies. 

Be aware of potential aftereffects of an earthquake, such as aftershocks, structural damage, gas leaks and electrical hazards. If you suspect damage to your home or utilities, evacuate immediately and contact emergency services for assistance.

Stay informed about earthquake risks and preparedness measures in your area. Monitor local news, weather alerts and emergency notifications for updates on seismic activity and safety recommendations.

A market scene in Marrakesh, Morocco. Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A number of calamitous events have dominated the news lately: floods, fires, hurricanes, cyclones. They have caused thousands of deaths around the globe in places that are remote for us, and as such, inspire our compassion and even our financial aid, but they are not particularly part of us. We are not personally connected to them.

An exception for me was the recent earthquake and its devastation in Morocco. It breaks my heart to think of those welcoming people lying dead in the streets of the picturesque rural Berber villages, the quake stealing lives, destroying families and homes in its wake, continuing still, with its deadly aftershocks. At least 3000 dwellers are estimated to have died in the mountains southwest of Marrakesh. 

I visited Morocco some years ago and found it to be one of the more exotic and memorable of destinations: the calls to prayer five times a day, the women’s total cover-up abayas with only their eyes showing, the dramatic Atlas Mountains crowned with snow in the distance, the wonderful food, especially tagines or casseroles, the conspicuous patriarchy where only men sat in the coffee houses smoking and laughing, with few women on the street, the special sunlight, the bold colors and omnipresent scent of spices, the squares filled with vendors in hooded djellabas tending their stalls of foods and crafts. Also I saw water carriers, musicians, snake charmers, along with an acrobat and an animal trainer holding a colorful beast on a leash.

A special standout was the ancient city within Marrakesh, with its red walls constructed from the red sandstone and its Medina, a concentration of narrow alleyways, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The City was founded in 1070, right around the time the Normans were conquering England far to the North and west. Marrakesh grew rapidly and became a cultural, religious and trading center. Eventually sultans built fabulously decorated palaces, sumptuous mosques, citadels, casbahs and monuments, richly decorated with Moorish calligraphy, geometric shapes and ceramic tiles, some of which were visited before the quake. Who knows now what remains?

There is something about the sunlight in Marrakesh that has attracted artists. Colors seem more intense. Delacroix, Matisse and Dali, among many others, spent time there, painting behind the walls. Churchill loved to secret himself with his paints and brushes, creating what has been considered quite good art. One such painting, “Sunset over the Atlas Mountains,” was painted in La Mamounia, a beautiful hotel, two-centuries old but dramatically updated, with a 20-acre magnificent garden, where I, too, stayed with my tour. Is it still standing and intact? 

In Morocco, residents drink mint tea. It’s surprisingly refreshing from the heat during the warmer seasons, and it was a mark of their hospitality that a glass of the tea was offered as one entered a store. Our tour was led to a rug emporium, and sure enough, we were given glasses of mint tea. I accepted mine gratefully and sat on the sidelines as salesmen rolled out rugs for many of my companions. I did not need a rug, and so I watched as the scene unfolded.

“Be careful,” our tour guide whispered in my ear. “By the third mint tea you will buy a rug.”

I laughed. I kept accepting refills. We were there for perhaps an hour when the guide summoned us back to the bus. I was intrigued by the couple in front of me, who had been negotiating the price with the salesman for a dramatically colored large rug. Now they turned away as we all got up to file out. Panicked, the salesman called out after them the price they had been offering, but they didn’t turn back. 

Desperate, he saw me eyeing the rug. “Would you like to buy?” he entreated.

“How much?” I asked. He dropped the price even further.

I bought the rug. It sits on my living room floor, connecting me to Marrakesh, which will never again be the same.  

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In the last few weeks we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of tragic news. The horrific mass killings in Las Vegas is just the latest. We have lived through reports of the sequential hurricanes that have killed, maimed and destroyed lives and property in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. We have agonized for the men, women and children caught in the Mexican earthquakes. And this latest horror of crowd homicide is the worst because it is not a paroxysm of the natural world, something we have to accept, but the act of a crazed human against hundreds of other innocent humans. Imagine the concertgoers’ happy anticipation for an evening of music under the stars with lovers or family only to be killed by a sniper’s bullets. And why?

We ran away from news of the carnage the other night and took refuge in art. The glorious embrace of Giacomo Puccini and his soaring arias of “La Bohème,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, welcomed us.

Puccini, you may well know, is considered one of the two most famous Italian opera composers of the 19th century, the other being Giuseppe Verdi. What I didn’t know is that he was the offspring of a musical dynasty in Lucca that included his father and the fathers preceding them as far back as his great-great-grandfather. All of these ancestors studied music at Bologna, wrote music for the church and, aided by their genes and family connections, were distinguished in their time.

Puccini’s first opera, “Le Villi,” premiering in 1884, when he was 26, was well enough received, and his subsequent “Manon Lescaut” was a triumph. His personal life, however, was as riveting as his librettos. He eloped with his married, former piano student at the risk of being shunned. They did eventually marry, after another husband killed her womanizing husband. By coincidence, Puccini’s opera premiered the same week as Verdi’s last opera, “Falstaff,” and talk began of Puccini being the natural heir to Verdi. At least that was what George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said.

Puccini’s next three operas are among the most popular and most often produced: “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”

When “La Bohème” premiered in Turin in 1896, Arturo Toscanini conducted it, and it was immediately popular. The story is of four young artists, all starving and freezing as they work in a garret in Paris and experience the pleasures and pains of young love. The opera is at turns joyful with the energy of youth and tragic with the premature death from tuberculosis of Mimi, the seamstress, and Rodolfo’s love. As a young man in Milan, Puccini lived the life he wrote about, once sharing a single herring with three others, as portrayed in the opera.

Puccini almost died in a car accident before finishing “Madama Butterfly” but then went on to complete what is now one of the most loved operas in the world. “Tosca” followed; then “La Fanciulla del West,” a plot set in America; “La Rondine;” and a three-act opera, including “Gianni Schicchi,” which contains my favorite aria, “O mio babbino caro.” “Turandot” was his final opera, finished after his death by his associates from his sketches, and offering the memorable, “Nessun dorma.”

Publicity about his personal life continued when his wife accused their maid of having an affair with Puccini, who was known to wander off the reservation. The maid then committed suicide, and an autopsy revealed that she had died a virgin. Puccini’s wife was accused of slander, found guilty and sentenced to five months in jail; but a payment by Puccini spared her that experience.

Ultimately 11 of Puccini’s operas are among the 200 most performed operas in the world, and the abovementioned three are in the top 10. Only Verdi and Mozart have had more operas performed. By his death in 1924, Puccini had earned $4 million from his works.

I hope this excursion in art has helped you, as it did me, to escape at least briefly from the omnipresent bad news.