We were rudely awakened this past Sunday morning when an earthquake threw us out of bed at 3:20 am. It was a big one. The roar of the quake, the smashing glasses, dishes, and pottery, accompanied by the sound of exploding transformers and the splash of hundreds of gallons of water being thrown out of the pool, was deafening.
And then the shaking ceased, the noise stopped, and it was all over.
Of course, we knew what had happened. We live in Northern California. People who live in "earthquake country" are prepared for earthquakes, or at least we like to think we are. Flashlights in every room, with shoes at bedside (to avoid bare feet meeting broken glass), 5 gallons of water and food/shelter for 72 hours.
What we were NOT prepared for is the shock of sitting in the silence and the dark in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake that throws you out of bed at 3:20 in the morning.
The wifi and landline phone were dead; we had no power. But I had a fully charged mobile phone and working cell service. I turned to Twitter and within about 15 seconds I learned that we had just experienced an 6.1-on-the-scale earthquake, the epicenter of which was just 9 miles to the southeast of where we live. I saw that friends in San Francisco and San Jose had been awakened by the quake, too, and had already checked in to see if we were okay. We saw that our friends in Napa had been slammed, and were advised not to drive over to help because the roads had been damaged.
As the morning went on, we eventually posted pictures on Instagram and messages on Facebook to let friends and family know that we were alright. But what I learned in those first moments, when immediacy mattered most, was that in case of emergency, when WE needed targeted information, Twitter was where we turned first.