When I first heard about the Chilean earthquake (over the radio, while driving), the first thing I thought was, "is CousinC alright?" The thing is, I don't know CousinC at all, having met him only once when I was barely a teenager and he was a cherry-cheeked young man visiting his California sister and getting dragged to see the various relatives. He didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish (at least not then), but we did smile at each other in a very friendly manner from our positions on opposite sides of the living room. It's his sister I know, my mother's first cousin and one of the relatives whose company I most enjoy; I don't know when she came to California from Chile but she's been here all of my life.
On that tenuous a connection, still, my first concern was, "is CousinC alright?" Because I love his sister, and met him once, and know there is that connection, his existence and welfare still matter to me. It was only after I thought about it for a bit that the peculiarity of that concern struck me and I wondered about the source of my concern. Was it that I've known and loved his sister all my life? Was it that he has my grandpa's last name? Was it that my mother would be so distressed if one of her favorite cousins was distressed by the loss of a brother? (Yes, of course I know CousinC is also my mother's cousin, but his sister, CousinA, is the one who's been my mother's friend and confidante all these years.) Maybe it was only that he is one of the tiny little links in the chain that keeps me connected to the world and the people in it, that down there in Chile, there exists a man whose dna is at least a little bit like mine, whose surname is the same as my grandpa's, whose father wrote me such nicely formal notes of congratulation when I gave birth to KidOne and KidTwo, whose descent is from that same sea captain who is in old family photographs, standing on his ship's deck and holding my then-infant mother.
Such a little connection and, yet, his welfare was the first thing to cross my mind when I heard of the quake.
So far no news from him, but according to Twitter his town is essentially okay. No news is good news, I guess.
As far as the quake itself goes, it demonstrates big time the importance of building codes and building inspectors and not cutting corners in construction. The thought of how high the death toll could have been if things hadn't been so sturdily built just boggles the mind. And it's a good reminder to all of us in earthquake country to take seriously the admonitions from on high to be prepared to manage on our own for three days at least when, not if, we have our own Big One.
I'm almost ready; how about you?