The 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911 at 100

by Seth Colter Walls

This morning, as I was walking down the street — on one of those uber-hyphenated strolls that freelance journalists colorfully like to describe as the “are-you-kidding-I-can’t-afford-to-take-a-cab” variety — I momentarily tripped across a small fissure in the concrete. And then I got to thinking about the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Calaveras fault in California, back on July 1, 1911. Today, were that earthquake still alive and happening, it would be 100 years old. What a grand old dame it would be! I decided to put on my imagining hat.

First of all, the breakout it would represent on the complexion of the earth’s epidermis would, after 100 continuous years of rupture, likely appear quite large. By now, the chasm might have been steep or wide enough for us to have thrown all of our domestic and international problems into. Goodbye, the snakily complicated jurisprudence of military tribunals! We could have just thrown “enemy combatants” down the 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911, had it still been kicking during the Global War on Terror.

And I sure got the sense it would have known what to do about 9/11, too.

Mostly however, I like to think about how the 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911 would have probably had no thoughts at all about the British Royal Family. I like to imagine walking up to the precipice of a fault line that had continuously been terrorizing man-and woman-kind for a full-on century, and asking it about, say, the attractiveness of Pippa Middleton.

“Who?” the 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911 would say to me. (This, as hordes of concussed and bloodied locals who had still been raising families for generations near the fault-line — “It’s where we make our stand,” they would tell the occasionally visiting TV crews — stagger dizzily past me.)

“I’m a real game-changer,” the 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911 would say, adding. “Fault lines, baby — we’re the real movers and shakers on this planet. Oh hello, Gorby!”

What an intoxicating scamp! It’s almost hard for me to go back to a world in which I can’t imagine that the 6.4 California Earthquake of July 1, 1911 is still with us.

Seth Colter Walls really does enjoy imagining.