The Snowflake Hall of Fame?

David Christy

Sometimes these days, I think we go about our everyday lives with a naivety that, on reflection and the study of the peoples and nations and communities of history past, is head scratching.

I’m not saying Americans or Oklahomans need to unduly worry about what is next for us in terms of economy, of weather or disease, historic drought or untold flooding amid the major climate change the entire planet likely is facing, of super hurricanes or earthquakes.

But, then again, we really aren’t prepared for something catastrophic, are we?

No, we really aren’t.

When you go back in the historical record, earthquakes seem to stand out among all other calamities that have befallen mankind, that truly changed the courses of civilization.

That’s right, good old planet Earth sometimes attacks us without mercy.

It’s almost like the Earth is a living, breathing entity all its own, that can wreak havoc upon us in mere seconds.

And we are powerless to stop it.

Earthquakes, ahhh, earthquakes.

We read about them from history, how they changed our ancestors and how great structures were lost to history.

But, until we today experience them — in 2019 whatever — they are out of sight, out of mind.

We have to see and experience the results of massive death and destruction to truly appreciate how vulnerable mankind really is on this planet.

Ancient Greece was hit by earthquakes, and three of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were destroyed by quakes.

Oh, that’s cool. But, that happened to someone else … meh … can’t happen here.

Oh, yeah?

In 464 B.C., a massive earthquake destroyed the city-state of Sparta in ancient Greece, sparking a slave revolt leading to the 30-years-long Peloponnesian War, a conflict between Athens and Sparta that left thousands of people dead.

Let’s continue.

More than 830,000 people died when a magnitude 8 earthquake hit the Chinese province of Shaanxi in the year 1556, in what has become by far the deadliest earthquake in Earth’s recorded history.

Nine Chinese provinces were affected and millions were left homeless.

Can you even imagine the devastation that quake wrought on China, or the economic impact that it had, which effected the region for hundreds of years?

I can’t.

In 1700, not that long ago in terms of human history, a monster earthquake hit in Canadian British Columbia and this nation’s Pacific Northwest, sending a massive tsunami to Japan.

The likely magnitude 9 earthquake ranged from California up into Canada, and did untold damage across the entire expanse of the vast Pacific Ocean when the water displaced by the massive quake reached the Japanese islands.

Can you imagine the devastation that would bring today?

I can’t.

There were only a few Native Americans in this region in 1700, a few explorers here and there. No economies, barely any people, no structures to speak of.

A magnitude 9 earthquake in this same area today would wreck the economies and the lives of millions of Americans, Canadians, Japanese and everything in the tsunami’s path.

In 2004, the day after Christmas, the third largest earthquake in world history hit off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Fourteen countries in every direction felt the Earth’s wrath that day, with nearly 100-foot-high tsunami waves of water traveling in the Indian Ocean.

The final toll found more than 220,000 people died that day, or were missing and presumed dead, and 1.7 million people were displaced from their homes and businesses.

These are but a few of the massive earthquakes and resulting tsunamis that have visited Earth over the historic record.

There probably are hundreds, maybe thousands that have wrecked the landscape of this planet before humans began writing down or retelling the tales of the result, and adding up the toll.

As we have read in headlines in the past week, or on the TV news or on your smartphone, California has been rattled by earthquakes. The state is a slumbering giant, as is the entire West Coast of the United States.

The U.S. has the world’s greatest economy, easily over China and other great countries on this planet.

California — as only one single U.S. state — ranks fifth in the world in gross domestic product.

What if this nation lost that massive portion of our economy to a major earthquake that devastated one of the major earthquake zones on Earth?

It would be a massive hit to America’s economy.

California ranks above the economies of the United Kingdom, France, India, Italy and all of Canada.

Or what if the Texas economy were wrecked by super hurricanes that ruined that state’s livelihood from wind and rain and flood? It is the world’s 11th-ranked economy.

We are a people an instant from near-destruction, ofttimes living in our everyday clueless bliss.

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Christy is news editor in charge of the layout desk and a columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at

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3rd-generation journalist, Univ. of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1968-1972, OU Sports Information Office, sports editor Sherman (Texas) Democrat, editor weekly Waukomis Hornet, news editor Enid News & Eagle. Retired 27-year volunteer firefighter and EMT.

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