Students' reaction to earthquake varies, but emotions are high

Chuck Painter Student watch news coverage of Loma Prieta quake

Students displaced by the Loma Prieta earthquake watched coverage of the Bay Area-wide disaster on a car-battery-powered television at the corner of Lomita Drive and Santa Teresa Street.

For the Stanford community, the earthquake was a varied, and happily, not as tragic an experience as that of many other people in the Bay Area.

But the displacement caused by the earthquake was emotional as well as physical, say many of the students who were forced from their homes and spent Wednesday night with friends or in the lounges of other dorms. More than 1,000 students had to find alternate housing the night of the earthquake, and approximately 500 students remained unhoused again on Wednesday,

"I just feel bad about imposing on our friends," said Kimberly Coffer, a junior from Roth House.

At Haus Mitteleuropa and other houses on the row, students Thursday morning entered in small supervised groups to remove their belongings. Students were instructed to pack clothes and books for a week. Many said they wished they had a better idea of how long the house would be closed.

But despite the chaos, some things, in fact, were unaffected.

Law students prepared

Fifteen of the 28 law firm representatives scheduled to conduct placement interviews showed up on time Wednesday. "And so did our law students." said Constance Hellyer of the law school publications office. "In their best suits."

The interviews were conducted outdoors in the courtyard of the law school.

The Los Angeles String Quartet was scheduled to play in the Donner lounge Tuesday evening, and did. To hear the music, students had to disable the lounge's fire alarm and wrapped a towel around another in the lobby. The quartet played for an hour and a half accompanied by alarms going off in other buildings.

"The thing that made it (the earthquake) worse, was the alarms going off for the next two hours," said Caroline Clevenger, a junior and resident assistant in the dorm.

Students' frustrations with the dislocations were evident. And the psychological effects at times were apparent. One student standing in the Haus Mitt driveway announced. "I have an intense desire to scream."

At Synergy, where students played croquet on the lawn Wednesday afternoon, the mood Thursday was more somber. Students removed belongings and staff members helped remove garbage and food. Synergy and neighboring Delata Tau Delta house are believed to be among the more seriously damaged houses.

Monika Marquez, a junior in the East European Studies House, said she spent Wednesday night in the Toyon lounge. The young son of the R.F. brought her a teddy bear and told her. "This will make you feel better."

But while Marquez compared her experience to a slumber party, it is one she said she is ready to leave. 

Peter Rumelhart, a fifth year senior in Geology, said he was "depressed" after the quake. He has an office in Geology Corner that he is not allowed to enter. "Our computers are in there; they all are down. My classes have been cancelled."

Experts warn that the psychological effects of the earthquake remained to be felt.

Alejandro Martinez, staff psychologist at Counseling and Psychological Services at Cowell, said that reactions so far have not been unusual, bur were the kind that had been expected.

Martinez said that he and other staff members have heard varying reactions from students ranging from "What's the big deal?" to great concern for their own safety.

"I think it will take weeks before the full range of reactions have surfaced," he said.

"Students are experiencing sadness, frustration over the disruption, and are still coming to terms with the fact that they have just confronted a real, serious danger and were basically unable to do anything about it."

Counseling center set up 

The staff has set up a drop-in counseling center at Tresidder. Martinez said that he and other counselors are "trying to arrange ourselves so as to return to normality as soon as possible, without ignoring the truth that something terribly dramatic has occurred."

The 5:04 p.m. earthquake jolt will be long remembered. A number of students quickly recalled "where they were" when "it" happened.

Students and faculty of the business school were gathering for a social mixer outside the building when the quake hit.

"The business school building was swaying quite a bit, but the only thing that fell off our tables out here (on the patio) was one pumpkin," said Ken Sawyer, a second year business student. "People ran to the open areas."

An hour later, several hundred students and faculty were still mixing and nibbling cheese, although conversations were difficult over the steady buzz of building emergency alarm systems.

The cook crew of Synergy, a cooperative house, was working in the kitchen when the quake hit, and "there is now miso soup all over the floor," said Jay Swan, a junior. "The floor is a sea of zucchini and soup," said Jeff Tumlin, also a junior.

At the Oval, several instructors taught their classes sitting on the grass and students ate and read on the patio of Tresidder Union as usual. They went scrambling away from the building overhangs, however, when the plate glass windows wiggled briefly during an aftershock at 5:45 p.m.

At Phi Psi, another cooperative house, where two chimneys crashed to the ground, students sat on cars in the parking lot and played bongo drums, clay drums, tambourines and a flute in a late night jam session. Fifteen to 20 students went to the Oval to spend the night, said Jon King a sophomore at Phi Psi.

"It really hadn't soaked in yet," he said.

On Wednesday, the women's basketball team was practicing on the parking lot near Maples Pavilion. The Stanford water polo team was in the pool, and the tennis courts were crowded with students taking advantage of the day off.

At Angell Field, the Stanford band and the Dollies practiced for the football game on Saturday.