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.

Some of my colleagues waiting outside the building during the evacuation.
Some of my colleagues waiting outside the building during the evacuation.

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.

Why did I have to buy a new bottle of olive oil last week? Why couldn't I have just gone without a little longer?
Why did I have to buy a new bottle of olive oil last week? Why couldn't I have just gone without a little longer?

(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:

The angel may not have lost her wings, but she did lose her arm. And her lantern.
The angel may not have lost her wings, but she did lose her arm. And her lantern.

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.

7 thoughts on “Earthquake!

  1. Joanne August 23, 2011 / 9:50 pm

    Today’s traffic only reinforces to me the fact that we are all dead in case of a real emergency. UGH. The base was a parking lot for HOURS after the quake.

    Once again, I was on the phone for a major event (just like 9/11). This time, I was on the phone with a colleague 20 minutes south and I “heard” the earthquake hit his office about 2 seconds before it hit us in SE DC. So, I knew what it was right away. And it was freaky, and scary. Not a fan. No living in Cali for me!

    I’m sorry about your angel, and the olive oil. We dodged any damage, although Jesse was concerned enough about what he smelled by the gas heater that he had the gas company come by. They were here FAST–they were leaving by the time I finally got home. I’m impressed–I guess I should finally pay the dang bill. Ha!

  2. Mom August 23, 2011 / 10:18 pm

    YICH!!! EVOO on the floor is an ungodly mess to clean up for sure!! And, your angel will be mendable with some super glue. I, too, am not an angel person, as was Anne, but as you said, we all have one of HER collection and that makes them oh so special.

    So relieved you are home OK and the back wall is still there. What a day!!!! ** HUGS **

  3. susan August 23, 2011 / 10:20 pm

    I was glad to read the part about “all the adults discussing what to do in the event of an earthquake”. Already shared my lame-o parenting, but nice to know my lack of knowledge was shared by many. Which is why I read your post to Meg 🙂 It was mostly interesting here…definitely enough to feel, but not horribly scary (‘cept for the kids home alone part). An interesting first day back to work!!

    The angel picture made me sad 😦 But there are many more at 1210…

  4. Common Loon August 24, 2011 / 12:00 am

    To lighten the mood…

    So this is how I think it “went down” with the angel (pun intended):

    Immediately, she recognized the earthquake situation and flew about the apartment trying to steady and save what she could. Unfortunately, the EVOO was just too heavy (after all, it was a new bottle) and it snapped her arm. She could not prevent the BP-esque tragedy, but knew the oil slick could send you sliding straight into an injury. Thus, she flew to the ground and lay in pieces, hoping to attract your attention both to her and the perilous oil. A little super glue, and she’ll be fine, but she knew you would need more than super glue and knew it was time for sacrifice.

    Glad you’re OK!

  5. Shannon August 24, 2011 / 9:17 am

    For me, the earthquake is the gift that keeps on giving. The gentle swaying of my office building, of which I was unfortunately looking out the window of, was enough to trigger a vertigo episode that has yet to subside. I am calling the spells “My Own Personal Earthquakes”.

    Thanks to the all-knowing internets, I was able to look it up and apparently this is a common quake physical side effect for those us prone to inner ear problems, so I’m glad to know that I’m not a freak. Still, I am rather annoyed by it all. I slept with Dramamine last night. 😡

  6. Jennifer Kropelin August 24, 2011 / 7:53 pm

    Your armless angel fits in with our recent movie-watching theme…’Soul Surfer’ and ‘127 Hours’…as my son Steven keeps pointing out (over and over!!) – he really admires anyone who loses an arm but doesn’t let that stop them from pursuing their dreams! (ok he is only 7 and I do realize that your angel is inanimate, however that was my immediate thought and so I just had to share the chuckle)

Comments are closed.