It was February 28, 2001, which I believe was Ash Wednesday that year. I was working on the 20th floor of the Seattle Federal Building for as a customer service representative for an unnamed government agency. You know, those people who you used to stay on hold for hours for before they outsourced the jobs to India? Although I think the US government still uses locals to place you on hold for hours.
At any rate, I was speaking to some fine citizen on the phone, which was my job, when suddenly it sounded like a train was rattling through the building. This was unusual, since as I said, I was on the 20th floor. About this time my manager comes running out of her office yelling, “Earthquake, get under your desks.” Which I did, while I was still speaking to the fine citizen. Of course, since I was under the desk, I no longer had access to my computer, and so couldn’t help him, but for some reason, we stayed connected.
The shaking continued for a bit, then stopped. But the building continued to sway back and forth for a while longer. Eventually, it, too stopped. At which time, I told the good citizen I had to disconnect, because there was no way I could possibly think well enough to help him with his problem, anyway.
We crawled out from under our desks and looked around. Fortunately, there was no damage around us. Unfortunately, the phone lines immediately went down, which means we had nothing to do except sit around and talk about the earthquake. We couldn’t call home, no out lines. We couldn’t go home. They had shut the elevators down while the GSA checked the building for damage. Oh, if you were determined enough, they would let you walk down the stairs. My knees would have none of that.
And so we sat around for hours, not knowing how bad it was anywhere else, whether our families were safe, or when we would get out of there. Or how, in case there was damage to the elevators. About four hours later, they finally let us go home, mostly because the phone lines were still jammed. I was living with The Boyo at the time, and he had been home recovering from surgery on his knee. When I got home, I asked him what he had been doing when the earthquake hit. He said he had been watching it in our 17th story apartment. Our living room window perfectly framed the top of the Space Needle, and I guess he just sat there and watched it sway. He’s either brave or foolish.
Of course, after the phone lines got unjammed we had to field calls from our families to assure them that we were all right. Seattle was lucky in the Nisqually quake, that it was a deep subduction earthquake. If it had been a shallow quake of 6.8 magnitude, it would have created very significant damage. There was one indirect death, no significant injuries, but lots of damage, some of which we are still dealing with.
I expect to be in more earthquakes. I live on the Pacific Rim. Downtown Seattle has a fault that runs right under it. I had experienced three or four earthquakes before that day. I live with it. I figure when the big one hits, I probably won’t be around to deal with the aftermath. Just a fatalist, I guess. But, if you want to scare yourself silly, you can go here and watch the tsunami animations. Me, I just don’t want to be on the 20th floor next time.