“The Big One”


B is a 17 year old Taiwanese-American high school student who is from Northern California.

This happened online through a discord call after I brought up things we learned in elementary school. This was sparked by a TikTok I had seen criticizing what many kids are taught in the US education system.


B: Wait did you guys also learn about the- like giant earthquake that we’re like super overdue for?

Me: YEAH NO I remember that it was crazy and like… the fact we’re still waiting on it

B: No it’s terrifying I always forget about it and then remember it like.. randomly. Didn’t the teachers like… call it the Big one or something like that? It was weird we were all just like told that California was mad overdue for a giant earthquake from the San Andreas fault.

Me: No exactly, it made me so paranoid as a kid and like- we definitely also watched that movie called like San Andreas or something with the Rock in it after we learned about it… like why would you show a bunch of 5th graders that, I was terrified.


As someone who has lived in California all my life, it is so interesting that this is a shared experience with others who grew up here. While it is a scientific fact, the way that it is told to children as “The Big One” makes it a sort of inside joke to those who know about it. I remember bringing it up to college friends who did not grow up in California and they are always horrified to hear about it. On the other hand, because I have known about it for so long, I am noticeably more numb to how concerning the threat actually is.