Thursday, August 30, 2018


It was a Monday morning, the start of the new work week. But the week would not begin in the usual way.

After the rumbling was heard, the ground began to shake. It was September 22, 1902.

Witnesses walking on the perimeter of the Plaza de España said they saw wave after wave wash over the grassy field.

The shaking was so strong that everyone was in a panic.

Because people were already awake, people could find a safe place to ride it out and escape the destruction, which was considerable. Many stone and mortar buildings (mampostería) crumbled into dust. The Marine Barracks in Hagåtña collapsed. When the costs were tallied, $23,000 was estimated for the damages to the Naval Station; $22,000 for other public buildings and bridges. The total amount for earthquake damages came to $214,000. Those are in 1902 values, which would equal over $6 million today.

Many of those public buildings were the public schools, and they all closed for awhile. The Protestant Sunday school was used to continue some classes in English for a time.

Sadly, two Chamorros died in the earthquake. There were no other casualties.

People counted around 180 aftershocks in the 24 hours following the earthquake.

Besides this, the island rose by a foot, some say. Some claimed Cabras Island rose by three feet.

One of the important buildings severely damaged by the earthquake was the church in Hagåtña. It would take many years for it to be restored.

The Chamorro people gave the 1902 a curious name. They called it the "rich man's earthquake." Linao i man riko. Why?

In November of 1900 there had been a strong typhoon that hit Guam. It was said to have been the worst typhoon on Guam since 1855. Being a typhoon, the main damage was suffered by the modest homes of the middle and lower economic classes, made of wood, bamboo and thatched roofing. The stronger homes of the higher classes, made of stone and mortar, withstood the strong winds.

But Mother Nature has a way of leveling the playing field. The earthquake of 1902 did little to hurt wooden homes that swayed with the earth's movements. But the earthquake had its impact on the stone and mortar homes of the wealthier families, crumbling into dust. Thus, the people called it i linao i man riko. The rich people's earthquake.

Stone homes in Hagåtña lie in ruins after the 1902 earthquake

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