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Local view: Living in Duluth like living after earthquake

(Steve Lindstrom / For the News Tribune)

It’s 1991 and I’m in Limon, Costa Rica, teaching English as a second language at a church school. It’s a weekend and I am taking a rest when suddenly I’m tossed off the bed. I don’t know what’s happening, but I feel I must get out of the building, and I run. As I leave the house, I’m once again knocked down. I come out on the road and look across at the jungle. Nothing makes sense. The jungle is moving two feet to the right, then two feet to the left and is going up and down. Puzzled, I kneel down and put my hand on the road only to see my hand move likewise. Of course my whole body is moving the same way.

The world calms down and I sit and try to orient myself. Eventually a boy with mouth agape comes walking down the road with his surfboard. I ask how he’s doing and he only says, “The ocean’s gone.” I lived right on the Caribbean; it came under my back porch. So I jump up and run back into and through the house. The Caribbean is not gone but it is now two blocks away. I eventually find out I survived a 7.6 earthquake with the epicenter only 20 miles from Limon. The Caribbean would never come back. The plates of the Earth shoved under each other, causing the elevation of the ocean bottom.

Now I will try to make relevancy to my life in Duluth. I had been offered a job in San Jose, Costa Rica, which I considered — as if I could move away from the earthquake area. Aftershocks of 5.0 or larger became quite common for a period. So one could say these events got me moving (constantly). I had to take a bus to San Jose. The ride over earthquake-destroyed roads was unbelievable. I had not experienced anything like it.

Until I moved to Duluth.

I live on the corner of Wicklow Street and Michigan Avenue in Duluth now. Mayor Don Ness, I invite you to travel from West Third Street up Michigan Avenue to Wicklow Street, taking note especially of the corner of Michigan Avenue and Devonshire Street. The ride from Limon to San Jose now seems like a skating rink compared to the ride from Third Street to Wicklow. Street repairs must be made now. After all, we’ve not had a 7.6 earthquake in Duluth.

And the roads in Costa Rica were quickly repaired.

Robert W. Draves lives in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.