Living in Washington, DC in the almost-decade since September 11, 2001, I’ve heard approximately eleventy-billion times that my city is target numbero uno for terrorists of every make and model. So, it won’t come as a surprise when I say that when my office started to shake this afternoon, my mind briefly went there.
Inside my head: Is the room moving? Yes. Yes? What? Bomb? What?
Outside my head: What is going on?
Jeff (colleague who happened to be at my desk): Earthquake. (Yes, just like that. No exclamation points. He’s a pretty low-key dude, that Jeff.)
Inside my head: Not a bomb. Good. Wait, what? Earthquake? WTF? (And yes, my internal monologue speaks in acronyms. Yours doesn’t?)
Outside my head: No way! Holy shit! Earthquake!
A fairly slapsticky madcap scramble then took place, as one person in my office climbed under her desk, while the rest of us debated what it was you’re supposed to do when there’s an earthquake, until the COO ran down the hallway yelling “Everyone out!”
We did as we were told, and followed her out.
We were probably only outside for 15 minutes, but until the office closed (early) an hour or so later, the day was pretty much a total loss as – being the digital and new media professionals we are paid to be – we were pretty much glued to our Twitter and Facebook streams.
The Washington Post now has all the official news of the quake you could want, but I quickly learned from Twitter friends that it had been felt at least as far as Hamilton, Ontario and Atlanta, Georgia. And that the epicenter was only an hour or so away, between Richmond and Fredericksburg. And that it was the biggest-ever (5.8 on the they-don’t-call-it-the-Richter-scale-anymore scale) in the state of Virginia. And that people write some pretty amusing things in the wake of the earth having a nice, unexpected shake.
Fortunately, though this was the “big one” for this area, it wasn’t actually big enough to do a whole lot of major damage. It was, however, enough to be really scary – much scarier than I ever expected, to be honest. I was incredibly frazzled by the whole experience, which is something I usually save for when things actually, well, happen. Other than 10-15 seconds of really aggressive shaking, everything was fine. And yet, I still kinda wanted to curl up with a blankie and suck my thumb for a few minutes. (I went and had a beer instead, since I am a grown-ass adult, and that’s what passes for thumb-sucking at the age of 40.)
When I got home, I did find a bit of a mess waiting for me, though not a collapsed wall in my bedroom as I had feared (the back wall is janky in the extreme). Instead, it was something I couldn’t fob off on the landlord, for while he is in charge of making sure I have walls, he is not responsible what I keep on my shelves. This means I’m on the hook for cleaning up the 24 ounces of olive oil that stretched from one end of my kitchen to the other.
(I am currently coping with this the best way I know how… By eating Chinese delivery and blogging. I’m pretty sure it’s still waiting for me, though.)
The only other casualty of the quake is much less messy, at least in a literal sense. Emotionally, it’s much more fraught, as the Willow Tree angel I keep as a memento of my aunt fell off the bookcase and broke into three pieces. I’m not much into angels in general, or Willow Tree specifically, but Anne loved them and my mom, sisters, cousins, and I all have one of her collection in our homes. Mine now looks like this:
I’m pretty sure with some careful application of craft glue I can get it back together and looking respectable, but I’m still kinda sad over it. But I also know that, in the greater scheme of what can happen during an earthquake, this is not even on the scale… Richter or otherwise.