The floors were shaking again in Mineral.
This small town about 80 miles southwest of Washington has been rebuilding since it was the epicenter of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake last August. But the lingering impact of the earthquake — which shook the East Coast as far north as Maine — can be seen in “Pod L,” where the football team works out just 25 steps away from the school building that was damaged so severely that it is scheduled to be torn down in the coming months.
The county’s lone high school is now housed in 22 modular buildings and seven trailers. And its football team — which served as a rallying point for the community in the weeks immediately following the earthquake — is making the best of its new reality.
“We still have a football field and we still have fans that can come,” Louisa quarterback Zack Jackson said. “That’s all we’re worried about.”
Football roots are deep
High school football reigns in rural Louisa County. On Friday nights in the fall, a live lion paces in a cage near the football field and the game ball is parachuted in to midfield in front of sellout crowds. Fans pack in to the stadium near midnight before the first day allowed for practice — a “midnight madness” event borrowed from college basketball programs.
The earthquake hit at 1:51 p.m. on Aug. 23, just three days before the Lions’ season-opening game against Eastern View. Coach Jonathan Meeks, who was teaching a gym class at the time, remembers seeing heavy industrial lights swinging and smashing against the ceiling.
The earthquake lasted less than a minute. As Meeks milled around outside after the shaking stopped, a player approached him.
“Coach, we still have practice today, right?” the player said.
They didn’t, and the season opener was canceled. The football stadium was not harmed in the earthquake, but the school was devastated. The majority of the damage was in the portion built in the 1970s, though damage was scattered throughout the building.
Ceiling tiles came down, concrete and tile walls showed significant cracks and damage and some of the building’s brick walls also were cracked and shifted.
Meeks went home to find the inside torn apart. “Completely ransacked,” he said. A handful of Louisa players were forced to move from their homes.
Junior fullback-linebacker Jared Koss got off his bus on the day of the earthquake to find his house, which his parents were in the process of purchasing, with massive damage.
“Everything looked normal [on the bus ride home], but you had that eerie feeling to it, you knew something wasn’t right,” said Koss, whose family has since moved into the home of a high school friend of his father. “When I got home that’s when I saw my house and the two chimneys in the yard and I was in shock.”