GEVENA COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Several Geneva County students are back home safely from the Golden State with an experience they’ll never forget. While on a trip to California, they were jolted by a strong, 6.4 magnitude earthquake.
Paige Jernigan, Saige Jernigan, Skyler Brannon, Hunter Sheffield, and their adviser, Amanda Sanders, were representing the state and school district at the National FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) Conference in Anaheim.
Although talks about earthquakes had come up ahead of the trip, nobody believed it would actually happen.
“Never crossed my mind that I’d be in an earthquake,” Skyler said. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen to me. We’ll be fine.”
But around 10:30 on Thursday morning, the earth shifted beneath their feet.
“I was lying in the bed, still asleep, and the earthquake woke me up," Hunter recalled. "I had a roommate from a different school, so I thought he was shaking my bed trying to get me up. Then I woke up and looked around the room and no one was there.”
“When you looked out the window, you can see the other buildings swaying back and forth,” said Skyler.
“It sounded like the window was cracking,” according to Sanders, “but they build the buildings on foundations that are engineered to sway and not crumble.”
Shortly after, staff at the hotel asked guests to remain in their rooms, welcomed instructions for the group.
“We don’t really know what to do in an earthquake," Sanders said. "If there’s a tornado, we know what to do. If there is a hurricane, we know what to do.”
The shock of the earthquake was enough for Sanders to decide to cut the trip short and head home a day early. The next day, they missed the major 7.1 earthquake aftershock.
“Whenever we got through security and we got to the gate and everybody was sitting in their seat, that’s when I could close my eyes,” Sanders admitted.
It was a learning experience not just for the students at the conference, but "How to Survive an Earthquake 101.′
“Stay calm in stressful situations,” said Hunter.
The quake wasn’t the only thing they felt on the West Coast. The students placed for their presentations at the conference.
Hunter received the silver medal for his presentation on “Recycle Redesign,” Paige and Saige received a silver medal for their presentation on “Focus on Children,” and Skyler received a gold medal for her presentation on “Teach and Train.”