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The longest 20 seconds of my life

Federal Computer Week's editorial offices are on the seventh floor of a building in Falls Church, Va. We were working on the regular mix of things on a quiet, ordinary Tuesday afternoon when the floors began to vibrate.

Most of us thought little of it in the first couple of seconds because there has been construction and furniture moving on the floor above us recently and rumbles and noises aren't unusual. But then it grew more intense, and furniture started to sway and some of us wondered: earthquake, or bomb?

When everything stopped shaking -- the longest 20 seconds of our lives -- we stood up as one and headed for the stairs, winding our way down seven flights and emerging in the front lobby. We still didn't know for certain what had happened, but people using smart phones were quick to begin reporting some information.

After about 15 minutes the building management let us return and try to get our minds back to work.

Where were you when the earthquake hit?

Posted on Aug 23, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Reader Comments

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Charles Fort Belvoir

I have to agree with Judy P about the evacuation plans for natural/man-made disasters. For the years I have worked here, it always seems that the further North one works for the Government, the earlier one is released. This means that those early released employees jam up route 95 south then our local release just adds to it. Would be much smarter to stagger the releases so those working south of DC are out first and closer one gets to DC the later the release.

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Amos Pace New Jersey

I had just gotten on an elevator headed to the second floor of the building. The doors closed and the elevator began moving, lurching and jerking its way up. The elevator was shaking and knocking on the wall. I thought the elevator was mal-functioning and that I may not make it to the second floor. When the elevator arrived at the second floor and the door opened, everyone was running toward the exits. I didn't know what was going on, until someone yelled "Get out of the building Earthquake".

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 Tom Mauceri Reston, VA

Having just visited Ground Zero in NYC recently, you know where my thoughts went first, as I listened for airplane engines. Imagine my relief when I heard that it was an earthquake and the President announced it was centered on the Geroge Bush Fault!

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 Judy P Rockville, Md

I've been in hurricanes and blizzards. Had tornados swirl around me. This was my first earthquake. I work on the 2nd floor and a new building is going up across the street. I thought a huge heavy truck was rumbling by. Then I looked up and realized it was the building itself that was shaking violently. I yell out such and sat to watch for the light possibly coming down on my head. Didn’t think to run or try to get out. No warning was sounded by the PA system. Called my “daycare” to check on my dogs. Was told all was fine and no one/dog seemed to be upset. My dogs did sleep like the dead last night so I guess it was as stressful for them as for me. Whoever told OPM it was a smart idea to let everyone leave early?? There is NO evacuation plan for the DC metro area. The roads were utter chaos!!

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 Ann Washington, DC

I was attending a conference at the DC Convention Center called "Innovation Nation "Shake IT Up". Alan Greenspan had been a morning keynote speaker. During the luncheon keynote speaches, the room shook and a few things fell from the ceiling. Not to be facitious, the forum was greatly succesful in shaking it up.

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