Was I imagining this?
One second my world was normal, and the next, it was moving beneath me. A low, heavy and not so distant crash resonated somewhere in my echoic memory.
We were sitting in our rented vacation apartment in Herceg-Novi, Montenegro, just getting into another animated conversation about horoscopes and the handshake induction when we felt it.
Did something in the other room fall? Nothing was heavy enough to cause such a reverberation. Could someone in the building have turned on an extremely violent washing machine? No, that’s too far-fetched. Actually, what it logically sounded and felt like was a semi truck that had just crashed through a wall and landed on a bouncy gym under our apartment…Could that be it?
We looked at each other, likely going through the same process of elimination. I was already hopeful when Charlie said it.
“I think it’s an earthquake.”
It was definitely a possibility – Montenegro is in an active seismic region1 and experiences hundreds of earthquakes each year2. But the experience was so out of my reality that at first I couldn’t actually comprehend what was happening. It wasn’t anything like I thought it might feel like if someone had asked me to describe it.It had the surreal feeling of jouncing – it was indeed a tremor but it was more of a soft uneven wobble than a boring vibration. And while it definitely became more noticeable, it never caused more than a ripple in the oil on the shelf, and it lasted less than ten seconds at most.
In fact, I think it was over by the time that I panicked: What now? Aren’t we supposed to hide under a table or something? And what about that semi that crashed into our building??
A few minutes of research on the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre website revealed that despite Montenegro’s high seismic activity, most earthquakes are minor and only a few are ever felt; if we had felt one, it was clearly an anomaly. A moment later “MONTENEGRO” popped up as the most recent entry: the semi truck that I had felt crash into our building was an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5. I was ecstatic.
The following day, at almost exactly the same time, another earthquake rattled Montenegro. This one came in at a 4.6, and was the strongest felt since 20043.