by Jenny Meik Young
For a night, a day and a night, I did not sleep. Crackers, six cookies, and a bottle of water were all that sustained me. At 1:46 AM, September 21, 1999, I had been thrown literally from a bamboo sleeping mat and figuratively from my childhood realm into what I never wanted to be, an adult.
I traveled to Taiwan as a confident, bright-eyed twenty year old. I returned home, still twenty, yet confidently stronger focused, more futuristic and full of gratitude for all I'd be able to one day experience.
The event the Taiwanese still call 9-2-1 was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake and my city, Feng Yuan, was only three miles from the epicenter. I had been teaching English in the country for three weeks.
The swaying of our eight-story apartment building in conjunction with the rumblings and grumblings from the openings of the earth were a beautiful spectacle. I was reminded a divine power exists far beyond man's comprehension. An excerpt from a verse in The Book of Mormon comes to mind, “For all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion...” (Alma 30:44) The quake lasted 42 seconds as glass shattered, dogs barked, floorboards ripped and power lines snapped outside. When the infinitive stretching of my bedroom's corners subsided, I found my host mother and her five year old daughter unharmed. Just as “Nimen hao bu hao? You guys okay?” exited my mouth, we shook again by an aftershock ranking 7.4 on the Richter. Despite procedures taught to me in California elementary schools -”find a door jamb”, “get under a desk”, there was no way in Hades or that handbasket that we were staying in that building. She was a comin’ down.
This time the beauty of a God-like power was nonexistent. Ooh, God was still present I knew, as I prayed my entire way down the stairs, but the splendor was replaced by chaos, and the head penetrating screaming fear of others. Not to mention hundreds of people modeling their evening's choice of pj's. A mother who had more children than arms handed me her young daughter to carry. I hobbled down flights of stairs with shaking hands and an exploding heart. It was then I heard my dad’s familiar voice.
A few days before I left for Taiwan, my father had given me a special Priesthood blessing. Multiple times he blessed me with strength and promised me safety. The word safe was said so many times in the blessing that I thought to myself, “Whoa, Dad is obviously worried about this trip.” But now, 6,698 miles from home, it was Dad’s words, his voice, the man who had always been my protector, that Heavenly Father used to comfort me. Instantly, the shaking of the aftershock and the shaking of my hands stopped. We gathered at a nearby grassy park and listened as a truck's radio gave direction. In the darkness, light had not yet been made on the situation. How appalling the damage? Who was hurt? How many? My Chinese was at a basic level. Sure, I could ask where the bathrooms were and how old someone was and if they liked cabbage soup or not, but this. Earthquake? Zhong wen zheme shou? How do you say that in Chinese? For the next twenty four hours as I viewed damage, destruction, distress and death, my family was forefronted on my frontal lobe. When could I tell them I was alive? They surely knew by now we'd had a quake. Never had I faced a crisis without them. They were the flying buttresses to my cathedral. Though having extreme comfort from the Holy Ghost, I still trudged in a toppled environment, headached by a language and a culture I did not understand. I was alone, still powerless in my correspondence and still in my pajamas for Pete's sake! So for that day and most of the night, I grew up. Fate had pressure popped my perceptions. No more could I view life from my child eyes. Fortunately, my testimony had only been concreted. I knew a loving Heavenly Father answered prayers. His very Priesthood power was real.
Miraculous events took place, so that at 3:00 AM, twenty six hours later, I phoned my parents. Their suffering had out done mine. I was still clueless to the mass destruction. Mine was a visual example and theirs a numerical one. My family, informed every hour on the internet, underwent torture as they read- 800 dead, 1,250 dead, 1800 dead and still no word from me. “Mom? I'm okay Mom, I'm alive." I whispered. "Jen?...Oooh it's Jen!" Then hearing my mother's voice, I began to bawl like a baby.