Monday’s, September 19, 2022 earthquake of 7.6 magnitude in Mexico City reminded me of the Nisqually Earthquake.
Midday on February 28, 2001 the Nisqually earthquake shook the area with a 6.8 magnitude for nearly a minute at 10:54 a.m. For anyone that’s experienced and survived an earthquake of any magnitude, 60 seconds seems like eternity.
I can still tell you about my experience some 20 years later …
Any crisis management course or safety training I’ve participated in, the first step is remain calm. I generally mentally scoff at the notion. Easy to say, difficult to action. The fight or flight mechanism is triggered in each human, then chaos reigns.
At 10:54 a.m. on February 28, 2001, I witnessed how a small group of Americans react to the natural disaster of an earthquake. In fact, this was not my first either! In the late 1990’s I was in the Lynnwood area, closing up the Thrifty Payless Drugs Inc location when I watched a wave / roller of an earthquake towards me! That’s another story for another post.
I remembered from elementary school on up to high school that yearly earthquake drill of crawling underneath a table, desk, anything to provide cover from falling ceiling debris. This conditioning was activated that day!
At the time of the earthquake, I was working for Metropolitan Travel in the Meetings and Incentive Department. That company was located in the “Darth Vader” building in downtown Seattle. It’s actually the Fourth and Blanchard Building.
Coincidentally, our department was having our weekly meeting about the workflow we had on our agendas. It was a Wednesday, so we’ve had 2 days to work, and we have 2 more days to get anything done.
There was a conference room on the 13th floor – yes, this is one of the rare buildings I’ve been in that has a 13th floor. The conference table was ginormous, borderline obnoxious length and girth of solid oak.
I was listlessly looking out the floor to ceiling windows over a co-worker’s shoulder. Then?
I heard a loud BAM. My body rose out of it chair, and my knees uniformly slammed into the underside of the conference table. I knew immediately what it was, and my heart briefly stopped: EARTHQUAKE!
I stood up quickly, and with the back of knees sent my rolling chair outta my path like a shotput. I dove under the table for shelter. I saw the knees of my co-workers, so I grabbed their ankles and instinctively dragged them down to the carpeted floor with me.
My manager ran out of the room in the threshold of the stairway, then ran down them. WHAT?! I thought. Another co-worker, Sean, ran over to the floor-to-ceiling window that was actively bowing IN AND OUT, splayed his arms out and yelled, “Is this an earthquake?”
The rest of us pleaded with him to seek cover with us, but he ran out too.
I watched in absolute horror as the window cleaners employees holding on their scaffolding while the apparatus was bouncing off the building! Moments later one side of the safety ropes snapped as they clamored up the other rope to the roof of the building.
After a terrifying 60 seconds, it was done. The building was still swaying from the earthquake and the aftershocks, but the worst was over.
I implored everyone under the table with me to wait a few minutes longer to ensure it really was over. Needless to say, work was done for the day. I used public transportation to commute so I knew this would be a nightmare to get home.
I shrugged, Better than being here!
I realize my experience isn’t a harrowing escape of certain death, but it is my story and I did live it. Thankfully, I survived it so I could tell it. I’m more fortunate than others.