I was in a webinar on the second floor of our library with about 15 other people when the earthquake hit coastal North Carolina and the community college campus where I work. We are in a town with several military bases.
What went through my mind when the room started to sway, buck, and roll:
1. I’m having a “spell”
2. My meds are going haywire
3. We’re under attack
4. I didn’t hear any explosion
5. The power is still on, so it can’t be Armageddon
6. The other people in the room are feeling it too
7. I’m going to fall off my chair
8. When is this going to stop
9. This is too quiet to be an earthquake
10. Where’s the nearest nuclear plant
11. I’m freaking out, the room is closing in on me
12. Are we really going to sit here like nothing happened?
By this time the woman leading the webinar realized something was up and we weren’t paying any attention to her. Our building is shaking, we told her.
Her location is Manhattan, next to Madison Square Garden.
Then she said her building was shaking, too, and we heard fire alarms going off in the background. She apologized for the noise and went on with the webinar. Knowing New York was shaking too, was frankly terrifying to me. I was thinking multiple attacks near the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.
We asked her: Don’t you need to leave your building if the fire alarms are going off? Nah, she said, and kept going with her presentation. One tough cookie. Or a person in deep denial.
I never absorbed another word from her for the next 10 minutes. Just sat there trying not to freak out any more than I already was. FINALLY, we left the building. When we got outside, a student told us there had been an earthquake in Virginia.
This might not seem like good news, but compared to what I had been thinking, it was a huge relief. Thankfully, it seems that no one was seriously hurt.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t wait for permission to leave if the building is shaking for any reason. Evacuate the building. Get the heck out of there!
Hopefully I won’t have to put this lesson learned into effect for another 50 years. Now, let me check the weather channel to see when hurricane Irene is due to arrive!