Thursday, August 25, 2011

All Cracked Up

I had just surfed to to check out news re Hurricane Irene when the floor started shaking.  At first, I thought it was the guys doing construction outside thewindow by my cube on the fourth floor.  I looked to my left; they weren't there.  It got a bit stronger and in my peripheral vision, I saw someone walk by.  I figured they were running.  Then, I thought, 'wait a minute, nobody here is big enough to cause such a commotion by running'.  I got up to walk around the corner to see if anyone else was experiencing what I was, and that's when I felt the floor rolling; it felt like being on a boogie board.  I instinctively outstretched my arms, but was befuddled by the lack of doorways nearby; it's all open space and glass.  'I don't know what to do, what are we supposed to do?!'  My coworker said 'run downstairs' and so we did, joining other confused folks from our office building and others, out on the island that separates the service lane from K street, well in striking distance of any falling bricks, glass, trees or anything else that Mother Nature might have dislodged.

I'd left everything upstairs, and none of my coworkers iPhones seemed to be working (AT&T); I borrowed one anyway, and got through to my son at school a couple of  miles away in Georgetown  immediately.(BOOSTMOBILE!!)   He was okay; they'd evacuated.  I returned the phone to my coworker  who resumed frustratingly futile attempts to reach other iPhone users.

I worked at The Washington Post on 9/11, and I remember feeling like a sitting duck as we heard rumors of the State Department being hit and USAToday; the plane being diverted from the White House.  (The Washington Post is merely blocks away from The White House.)  Fortunately, The Post was not hit that day, though there were other scares and anthrax in the mailroom days later.  What happened in the weeks and months  after 9/11 at The Washington Post was a model of preparedness, though.  Each employee was provided with provisions to use in case of another emergency event (I remember a whistle, a flashlight, bottled water, batteriess) in addition to the cafeteria being fully stocked to feed 2000 or so of us, for some period of time, should 'sheltering in place' become necessary. 

We regularly had random drills.  There were Emergency Coordinators for segments of each floor, coworkers  who donned brightly colored vests and bullhorns, corralling us outside. We knew were to meet our group (outside in a nearby location away from the building), and then when all  (or most) were accounted for, we walked a specific route to a more remote location.

Those were the days.  I now work a couple of blocks from The Post, onsite at a government client.  I'm glad I have the information and emergency preparedness experience at The Post to call on, and hope I remember to, next time, because at my current work site, it's clearly every person for himself.

I've lived in this area for 30+ years, and the first earthquake I ever felt jolted me from my sleep last year; but it was just ONE unmistakable jolt.  This quake was something else entirely.  It went on for what seemed like quite awhile, leaving four floot long fissures in The Washington Monument; flinging angels and spires from The National Cathedral, hurling bricks through car windshields.  Even an aftershock in the weehours of this morning danced furniture around my bedroom a bit.

It's been an enlightening experience in several ways, the most poignant summarized by two comments made to me: 
  1. "You can pick your friends, but not your family."  Given the choice, I might've opted for a non-psychic family, or one that at least feigns giving a rat's ass since not one of the legions I'm related to by blood has yet to reach out to see if I'm okay; and 
  2. In response to my tweet that the Mayans are on to something, I got this response:  "I think they're a year off, personally."
OMG!!!  I hadn't thoughta that...  "I don't know what to do, what are we supposed to do?!" 

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