A 5.9 on the Richter Scale

Update: Just returned from my gym up the road in Falls Church, where the aerobics room is closed because of damage there.

We here on the East Coast experienced something today we are definitely not used to: a 5.9 earthquake! There is no major structural damage in the Arlington or DC areas that I have heard of, although some spires on the National Cathedral were sadly broken.

I was working from home on the sixth floor of my apartment building shortly before 2 PM, and taken aback when I heard a grinding noise and felt shaking. It sounded not unlike a large garbage disposal running and I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. At first, I thought it might be something in the apartment upstairs and as it grew louder and the building began to shake, I began to worry that something awful had happened on an upper floor to cause the roof to cave in. After all, weird things happen here all the time. But then the flimsy floor lamp next to my table began swaying back and forth. I stood up and looked around, wondering what on earth was happening. As the sensations intensified, “earthquake” entered my mind, but so did “bomb” “truck hitting building” “building roof falling in” “balcony support failing” and “terrorist attack”. I just didn’t know. I looked outside and saw the construction workers still running their equipment, so I thought it was just our building.

Then the sound grew in volume, a great grinding noise whose origins I couldn’t place. It was very loud. I heard water splashing and sloshing out of the fish tank. Water pooled in a bucket on the floor below the tank. I walked into the kitchen and stood in its front doorway and grabbed onto the doorframe. It felt like it went on forever. Just when I thought it was going to stop, it started up again. The worst part wasn’t the shaking or the frames and books falling off of the shelves, but the moments where the building swayed back and forth with a creaking noise. I was genuinely scared at those moments it must just collapse.

Sumo was out in the living room to my right crouched low and staring like he wanted to run but wasn’t sure where to go, because by now the shaking was intense and everywhere! People were yelling out in the hallway. I thought about grabbing the cats and throwing them in the carrier and then leaving, but they both took off for my bedroom and I knew they were under my bed. The antique heirloom cabinet in my living room was really swaying and shaking and I was afraid it was going to tip over. (It’s fine.) I went out in the building hallway when it felt like it was finally over. Things were still swaying very slightly and I felt off balance. and full of adrenaline. There was plaster from the ceiling all over the floor. I met a neighbor in the hallway and he said he’d never felt anything like that in his life. I soon got updates from Facebook – of course! Word travels fast. My friend in Toronto said her windows shook!

An hour or so later, several fire engines came out to our building and firemen ran in. I think they were checking for gas leaks. I went out on the Pike to visit the bank and get some lunch, but the traffic was gnarled so I pshawed the bank, grabbed some bad McDonald’s and went home. Surveying the apartment, I found that many of my books fell in a pile onto the floor, picture frames tipped over, one of the bookcases moved forward from the wall, a bottle of lotion landed a couple of feet from its perch, cabinet doors opened, and a little crab statue I have on top of the heirloom cabinet rotated around to face the opposite direction and moved from the front of the shelf to the back.

Domino continued to hide under a table until Eric came home. Sumo hid for another hour or so past the quake, then he ventured out and began sniffing around like a bloodhound!


2 responses to “A 5.9 on the Richter Scale

  1. yeah at one point i thought the building was coming down or something. it literally felt like someone was bulldozing down the neighbor’s house.

  2. Pretty scary down here in King George. The house was shaking pretty good but luckily no damage. Need to check into earthquake insurance!!

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