Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Very First Earthquake

Post-earthquake evacuation

I was sitting at my desk at work when my chair started to tremble.

At first I didn't think much of it. There's been a lot of construction on the building next door, and the drilling has become so commonplace that I've tuned it out. But this time I didn't hear anything.

Then the trembling started again. Almost simultaneously a coworker and I confirmed with each other that, indeed, we were not crazy. Other departments in the company seemed to be doing the same thing. Just as we were about to head for the door, our receptionist made an announcement over the intercom to evacuate the building.

At this point we were fairly certain it was an earthquake. That wasn't the case at first. Some, flashing back to 9/11, immediately imagined another attack. As we gathered outside of the building, however, the receptionist told us she had just received a call at the front desk from our Washington, DC, office, informing her that they were evacuating because of an earthquake. Seconds later, just before 2 p.m., the tremors started in New York.

Cellphone calls were impossible to make, but Twitter and Facebook were working. Between them and my coworkers, I learned that the quake was felt even in Ohio.

Just as we were all feeling pretty safe, a few women from half a block away started dashing toward us and then the other end of the block, and crowds more followed her. Not sure what was going on, we ran in that direction, too. One of the women told us someone had seen a building swaying. I suspect someone was letting their imagination get the best of them. In any case, no buildings collapsed.

We returned to our floor about an hour after the quake hit, but that didn't mean the day's events were out of our minds. What's more, some companies were using the earthquake as a marketing tool within hours, offering special earthquake discounts just for the day.

Except for the 30 seconds of minor shaking, it was a normal day. The subway wasn't even delayed. And so ends my first brush with a natural disaster. Although in this case -- when some people couldn't even feel the tremors -- I'm not sure "disaster" is the appropriate word.

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