The Day The Earth Shook

At 1:51pm EST today, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit Mineral, VA.  The shock waves from the quake were felt 100’s of miles away in New York City, where I work.

I work in a 50+ floor office building in Lower Manhattan.  And while I was sitting at my desk on the 40-somethingth-floor I felt the “floor” beneath me start to shake and roll.  In New York, on a very windy day, it’s not unusual to feel a SLIGHT movement of a tall building moving in the wind if you are on a very high floor. But on a day with a beautiful blue sky with a few white puffy clouds and no wind, it is most certainly NOT normal to feel the floor shaking underfoot.

All the people near me stood up from our desks, and eerily, I just grabbed my purse and headed for the stairwell along with others who had put on their sneakers, grabbed their laptops and such.  We’ve done so many emergency action drills in our building, even though there was no alarm going off and no announcements from the building management, we all knew something was amiss and just went to the stairwells as we had been taught to do.

The stairwells were very crowded, but people were filing down the 50 floors and below in an orderly fashion. But it was warm in the staircase, and every couple of floors, I saw abandoned pairs of high heels or other kinds of shoes.  Some people left their coffee cups behind too.

When I got down to the street level, my legs were shaking badly and I was sweating. I’m an office worker, and I haven’t been doing the stair-master enough to represent sprinting down 40+ flights of stairs in a short period of time. (It made me realize that I do need to be able to do that in order to protect myself in the future during such emergencies.)

I made the decision to head to the train to go home to New Jersey, but I heard from work colleagues that some people went back inside the building, and still others decided not to leave the building at all either during or after the quake shockwaves.

In the coming days, the news reports have said we should expect additional after-shocks to occur, but they will be of a lower magnitude than the original event.  In some cases, we may not even feel it at all.  I hope so, because I for one would never like to be sitting on an upper floor of a skyscraper when an earthquake hits Manhattan…again. Once is enough for me.


6 Responses

  1. Very weird to picture the whole thing – I can literally see you just getting up and going. And that stairwell – oh my.

    Really sorry you had that experience. I was not in my office building at the time. I was out at a diner having a late lunch with a NY Post. I’m totally serious. I didn’t EVEN KNOW. When I got back to the office, people were asking me what I did after the earthquake. I was like, “What are you talking about?” I once told my daughter in jest that rain doesn’t hit me (she was worried I would get wet without a rain coat). I didn’t realize I’m ‘immune’ to earthquakes 🙂

    • Yeah, it was totally wierd. The whole time I was going down the stairwell I could feel my heart pounding from the adrenaline, but no one was talking, and it was just … strange.

      Glad you and the New York Post made it through unscathed! 🙂 You can always count on the diner!

  2. I thought of you (and several others) when I heard. I got a call a little later with details of a call that was going on at the time… and how folks reacted.

    I’m glad everyone is fine – that’s the most important thing!

  3. Having been raised in Southern California, and enduring two major quakes (the Sylmar quake & the Northridge quake), it made me queasy just thinking about being in a skyscraper like that. Fast thinking on your part to not wait, and just get out of there.

    I’m glad everything turned out ok.

    • Thanks. It certainly gave me a different appreciation for folks that live in Cali.

      The reality is that New York’s many 100+ year old buildings were not built to withstand earthquakes and anything more than what we got yesterday would probably be a huge disaster for our city.

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