Stuyvesant Experiences an Unforeseen Earthquake

The Stuyvesant community reacts and responds to the unexpected earthquake that occurred on Friday, April 5, 2024.

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The Stuyvesant community—along with the majority of people in the tri-state area—were rattled on Friday, April 5, much like the ground itself. Much of the American Northeast experienced the effects of a 4.8 magnitude earthquake centered in New Jersey, the largest earthquake felt in New York City in over 100 years, and the first in over a decade. The unexpected natural phenomenon took students and teachers by surprise, especially due to a recent increase in unusual natural events, from orange skies to flooding, many of which have been linked to climate change. 

The earthquake occurred around 10:00 a.m. during a Parent-Teacher Conference schedule, meaning that many students were in class, including junior Brandon Waworuntu. “I was sitting in my physics classroom in the back on the eighth floor [when] the table started moving,” Waworuntu said. “I thought maybe someone was just walking by, shaking the table, but it kept on moving. I looked up and there was no one.”

Having greater expectations for the physical impact of an earthquake, many students described the tremor as underwhelming. For junior Imene Zarouri, who experienced a different earthquake in Algeria in 2014, the tremor in New York was on a much smaller scale.  “The [earthquake] in Algeria was pretty powerful. The whole house was shaking, and things fell [...]. It felt like it was really big,” Zarouri said. “For this [recent earthquake], it was underwhelming. It felt kind of relaxing. The floor was rumbling under you. It felt like a massage chair.” 

In response to the initial earthquake, the Stuyvesant administration followed the General Response Protocol, the standard DOE protocol during any emergency. “We checked each floor and the outside of the school building, and it was determined no further action was needed,” Assistant Principal of Safety and Security Brian Moran said in an email interview. 

AP Environmental Science teacher Jerry Citron explained that the earthquake that hit the tri-state area is classified as transverse, as it was caused by the rubbing of the earth’s plates. “There are these, [...] ancient faults or cracks within the lithosphere [the rigid, outmost layer] of the earth. Think of them as plates or really, really super large puzzle pieces that aren't really well connected,” Citron said. “This area, these fractures, where you have tons of rock above them will slide and slip, and as they slide and slip because they're moving in many different directions, they can cause the earth to shake.” 

In light of the recent earthquake, the importance of treating drills seriously was heavily emphasized by the school administration. “In the event of future emergencies, we will continue to utilize the response protocol,” Moran said. “This is why we take our drills (evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in, hold) seriously and practice them frequently.” 

Citron agreed that future geological activity was likely. However, he discouraged students from being overly concerned. “I think there are going to be more […] weather-related events that could create more risk, and perhaps students should just be more cognizant of that,” Citron said. “You don't want to be too alarmist, because you live in a world where you're just fraught with anxiety.”

Instead, he suggested that students remain mindful of their environment and changes to it.  Though we don’t have the power to control natural events, we do have the ability to address environmental issues that can contribute to a plethora of them, from orange skies to earthquakes. “What I'd like to see is people be a little bit proactive and do the kinds of things in their lives that could mitigate some of the climate-related issues that can affect our school and other parts or the entire planet,” Citron said.