Shaking it up in Washington D.C.: an earthquake story

Post-earthquake car traffic... or just another afternoon in in Washington D.C.?

Having lived in the Philippines, I’ve lived through many disasters. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons. You name it, the Philippines has it. So when the earth moved here in Washington D.C. last Tuesday, it still came as a surprise, no a shock, to this supposedly disasterly-prepared Filipino. But there was more to the jolting fear that the ground-shaking event produced.

It’s late August, and it’s that time of the year when news outfits are starting to revive news about the 9/11. I was particularly interested in this Yahoo! news coverage of 9/11 for the different perspective it provided. I was settling on my seat and consuming my post-lunch news serving. I was ready to get crackin’ and bang on the keyboard, when I heard some rumbling. Wait, I felt it. I tried to look at my colleague to confirm that my senses are playing with me. With the news article still fresh in my mind, I thought about the worst. We are under attack. But why the non-nondescript building I work in? Nah, perhaps it’s just a heavy truck passing by. But my office is situated on the 5th floor! Well, I’ve lived on the 5th floor once and would still feel the slightest tremble when the subway passed by. Maybe it’s the White House? The ground shook again. It lingered for a couple of seconds, and while still trying to make sense what was going on, I was only able to decide on one thing. Get out of the building! I headed for the door and out of the office. Others also poured to the stairwell. We’ve done this during a fire drill once. Relax. Office workers were already filling the sidewalks at the intersection of 19 and I.

There was a consensus that it was an earthquake and not a terrorist attack. Some colleagues theorized it could have been trains that crashed underground. I tried to wrap around my head of an earthquake in the East Coast. I didn’t know that DC sat on a fault line, but then I’m new in the area, so who knew what lies or has been planted beneath the Metro network. Now that I’m thinking about it as I write this, Washington DC is in fact built on a swamp, and the earthquake could have been a case of subduction. Although now everyone knows the epicenter of the tremor was in Mineral, Virginia.

We received an advisory yesterday at 5am from the World Bank giving us the option to take an unplanned leave or home-based work. I opted for the latter although I still had to attend a training in the afternoon at the main building. The public announcement beeped while we were in the middle of the training, just like it did for a number of time the rest of the afternoon after the earthquake. False alarm. They were just testing the PA system.

No injuries or major damages were reported in DC, except for some cracks in the Washington Monument and a few broken pinnacles of the National Cathedral (whose repairs won’t be covered by insurance). This morning at 1 am there was another reported aftershock.

While the East Coast is still reeling from the earthquake, it’s already bracing for the hurricane Irene’s arrival.


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