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College Chat: Surviving Disasters

There is nothing natural about natural disasters in college. You get stuck consoling your nervous mother who calls you every 15 minutes to make sure you haven’t drowned in a puddle and you keep receiving packages from your father with ponchos, orange cones, safety flares, and 27 flashlights. Then there you are, sitting frightened in your dorm, all poncho’d up, with nowhere to go.

I have experienced a weather calamity each year at Villanova, starting with a huge power outage freshman year, followed by two insane snowstorms, and rounding things off senior year with an earthquake and a hurricane. Though it may seem like I live under a cloud of bad luck, I have come out of these four years with some really funny stories.

Senior year harbored the two disasters that came with the biggest public panic- a Pennsylvania earthquake and Hurricane Irene. The first was, as earthquakes tend to be, a surprise to those who hadn’t turned on their televisions five minutes prior. I was sitting on my bed, arranging a medley for the Villanova Supernovas, my acapella group, when I felt the bed start to jiggle. First, I thought that perhaps I was enjoying the musical stylings of Shakira too much, so I tried to steady myself. When I realized that I wasn’t dancing, I credited it to my neighbors downstairs moving furniture around, until I realized that they probably don’t have any ceiling furniture, and nothing on their floor could create such a rumble on mine. Confused, I poked my head out of my room and was greeted by the two inquisitive faces of my roommates, asking if I was moving furniture. I wasn’t. Once we established that no furniture was being moved, we panicked.

Is the house falling down? It is pretty old, but probably not that old. Maybe there’s a strong wind? Okay, that’s a stupid idea. Carpenter ants? The Rapture? An earthquake? Maybe we should get under the door frames? We decided to get out of the house and see what everyone else was doing in this time of uncertainty.

The three of us grabbed our purses and ran down the stairs, entering a world that we were sure would be filled with chaos and meteors and dinosaurs and blood and guts. We were greeted by someone across the street at the bank drive-through and a squirrel who didn’t look very perturbed. We stood outside until my roommate Alex finished her apple, then decided we were all just nuts and went back into the house ashamed.

A little while later, I sent a text to one of my friends, telling him how embarrassed I was because my roommates and I thought we felt an earthquake. His response? There WAS an earthquake. We went straight to Twitter for confirmation, like true pioneers of the technology-worshiping generation, and found that it was true. We had just felt an earthquake in suburban Pennsylvania.

A week later, the warnings for Hurricane Irene started drowning the east coast in a tidal wave of panic. Water bottles were sold out everywhere but the beer yard, which my roommates and I were savvy enough to check just in time (with no ulterior motives, of course.) My roommates were in a bit of a tizzy, which I will attempt to understate for the sake of their pride. We ended up with six gallons of water, 24 water bottles, enough imperishable food for a large nomad colony, candles, flashlights, and several hundred batteries. Our windows were covered in plastic (after all, shattered glass shards can’t get through that!) and sealed with my very own zebra print duct tape, which added a little pizzazz to the insanity. We made the Boy Scouts look unprepared. It was so embarrassing.

I appreciate that we were the most solid citadel on the block, but I had my victorious moment the next morning when they were sitting in the living room with black circles under their eyes from staying up terrified all night. I emerged from my bedroom, glowing from restful sleep, and I asked if we had floated all the way to campus, or perhaps were lifted there by the wind, which was about as strong as a dad’s flatulence after a burrito. I followed that with the fact that it had barely rained, and the most damage done to our house was that bird dropped his dinner on my window. I was answered with slightly embarrassed, yet very annoyed, looks that I decided to interpret as acceptance of my “told ya so” moment. To this day, we are still trying to drink all that water.

Ellen Ring is a Yorktown native finishing her senior year at Villanova University where she is pursuing degrees in English, Chinese and Writing and Rhetoric. She is looking forward to attending law school next fall and providing her readers with her great college tales in the meantime.

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