One hundred and thirty years ago on this date--August 31, 1886--Charleston, South Carolina experienced the worst earthquake ever known to hit North America. It came at 9:20 PM, a 7.0 quake centered in Sommerville, just on the outskirts of the city. Nearly every house in Charleston was damaged. Trains were thrown from their tracks, while the rails themselves twisted into S-curves. Little sand volcanoes erupted all across the area. The shaking was felt as far west as the Mississippi River and well beyond the Canadian border.
That horrendous event sets the stage for the third volume of my Grenville Saga--"Yankee Daughters." The book won't be ready until sometime near the end of the year, but while you wait, here's a small taste from the start of Chapter 1:
only a small sound at first. Becca Grenville had been headed to bed, but she
hesitated at the foot of the stairs as she listened. It had sounded like a
wagon rumbling over the cobblestones outside. Could someone be arriving at this
time of night? She shook her head at the very idea, but she wouldn’t put it
past her brother Johnny, she decided. She waited for his knock.
explosive boom slammed into her whole body. It was not only a sound. It had
weight and strength to thrust her backward against the stairs. She couldn’t
seem to breathe. Her chest hurt with the effort. She stumbled as the floor
rocked beneath her feet and she fell backward. The kerosene lamp she carried
dropped from her hand and shattered on the parquet tiles of the hallway. A
small tongue of flame licked at the edge of the puddle of kerosene. The rest of
the world had grown very dark, and the sound went on and on.
dying, she asked herself. Is this what dying is like—a pain without cause, a
lack of air and light, whirling vision, nausea, fear, and above all, the sound?
She somehow had expected dying to be quieter. Then the acrid kerosene smell
aroused her, and she struggled to her feet, stamping out the flames that were
beginning to spread. Still disoriented in a world that would not stand still,
she grasped the newell post at the foot of the stairs and clung there, only
hoping that something—someone—would make this heaving, rocking motion stop.
in answer to her prayer, the movement did stop, although she could now hear
other discordant sounds. Bells were clanging without reason or harmony from
church steeples. Invisible people were screaming. Periodic crashes echoed from
all sides. Glass shattered. Horses whinnied in terror. Dogs barked and howled.
then the roaring came again. Becca sank onto the bottom steps, wrapping her
arms around her head to blot out the sound, but it did not help. The noise
seemed to come from every side, from above and below, even from inside her very
soul. Another odd smell—like wet ashes—made her open her eyes. She watched in
disbelief as the parlor fireplace spewed dust and smoke and then sank from
view, leaving only a gaping hole in the floor.