This time I didn’t sleep through it

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, August 16, 2020 in the Gaston Gazette and five other newspapers in North and South Carolina.

How many times have you been told that “we are all in this together”? If I had a nickel for every time I heard a politician, A-List celebrity or professional athlete tell me this, I’d be a rich, rich man.

It’s easy to say, quick to record, and more importantly, it makes us feel good. But is it true? Doesn’t seem that way on most days.

It did feel that way, even for a brief moment, last Sunday morning. It was at 8:07 a.m. to be exact. The 5.1-magnitude earthquake that emanated from Sparta, NC was felt up and down the east coast. I was already awake and out of bed, in mid-conversation with my girlfriend, Jillian, when the ground began to shift and the house started to creak.

“Did you just feel that?” I asked.

Even though she was awake when it hit, she was still laying in bed with her eyes closed. She didn’t think twice.

“You did that!” she accused.

Now I’ve never experienced an earthquake before. However, based on all the reports I’ve read and heard, this felt exactly how you’d expect an earthquake to feel like. I just knew this had to be one.

In an effort to clear my name, and to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, I took to social media and fired off a quick tweet asking the question: “Did I just feel an earthquake?”

I didn’t stick around for a response because only seconds later, Jillian and I received a text message from our next-door neighbor: “Did y’all’s house just shake?”

My good name was cleared from an independent third party. And for the first time, in a long time, it finally did feel like we were all in something together – at least everyone within a 200-mile radius that just felt the earthquake. The last time it felt like that was probably Super Bowl Sunday from earlier this year.

Do you even remember who won that Super Bowl? Yeah, I don’t either. The last seven months have felt like seven years.

This was the strongest earthquake originating out of North Carolina in 104 years. And in a year where that would be a headline story in and of itself, COVID-19 already has ‘Story of the Year’ honors locked up.

We live in the land of hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. We aren’t supposed to have earthquakes.

Then again, we weren’t supposed to have a global pandemic either.

The last earthquake that shook my house was back on August 23, 2011. It was a 5.6-magnitude quake originating from Richmond, VA, that was felt from as far north as Canada all the way down south into Georgia.

I just happened to be home that day on a late lunch break catching a short nap on the recliner. When I woke up, I had a bunch of text messages asking if I had felt the earthquake.

I hadn’t. I slept right through it.

When I got back to the office, everyone was talking all about it. They were bonding over it, exchanging stories of what they saw and what they felt. Except me. I missed out on the whole thing. I felt all alone.

Not this time. I didn’t sleep through this one. Thankfully there were no serious injuries and only minor structural damage reported in Sparta.

This earthquake might have shaken us, albeit briefly, but it hasn’t even come close to the seismic-shifting aftershocks we’ve all been experiencing in the wake of this global pandemic.

In his brand new book, “Life Is In The Transitions: Mastering Change At Any Age”, author Bruce Feiler says as a result of the pandemic, we’re all collectively experiencing a “lifequake” – a forceful burst of change in one’s life that leads to a period of upheaval, transition and renewal.

Everyone of us has had something change as a result of COVID-19. Some have lost family members. Others have lost jobs. There’s been changes in routines, changes in schedules, and changes in expectations.

So maybe we are in this together. We just happen to be dealing with it in different ways and on vastly different timelines.

We have all experienced the upheaval, but Feiler says the transition and renewal process is individually up to us.

So even though it sounds cliche, even trite at times, it’s still true. We are all in this together. We are just going to have to find our own way out.

Ben Dungan has been writing about how life has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. You can email him at [email protected] and read more from him at