The 5.9 quake centered in Mineral, Va., gave East Coasters a rare sense of what it's like to live in California — but was more disorienting than a California quake because those of us who live on the East Coast had no idea, at first, what it was.
The Pentagon and Capitol were evacuated, as was New York City Hall. Phone lines were jammed and flights briefly delayed, and it was felt as far away as Atlanta and Toronto. Pinnacles fell from the National Cathedral. Twitter was overrun with tweets of the "was that a–?" and "it couldn't have been–" variety.
But it was.
Also read: Earthquake Aftershocks Felt on Twitter
There were no reports of injuries as confusion and then relief spread outward from Virgina. Discovery Communications closed its headquarters in Silver Springs, Md., and Fox News's bureau was among many D.C. offices — as well as national monuments — that were shut down. Fox News' Bret Baier interviewed people outside his office.
Your humble correspondent, a Los Angeles native, was in the middle of a phone interview in my New York apartment when I noticed the bookshelves shaking. Since this is a city of old buildings, I first assumed something was seriously off with the pipes. Then that something was awry with the construction going on two buildings down. Then — thanks to a slew of recent stories about the Sept. 11 anniversary — that terrorism was somehow involved.
But there was no sound. Not even the shifting that sometimes accompanies California quakes. Just a sustained, relentless wobbling.
It had to be scariest for workers in the Pentagon, many of whom still remember American Airlines Flight 77 crashing through their walls, nearly a decade ago. Their and others' decision to evacuate — at least long enough for buildings to be checked — was understandable.
It was no joke, even by California standards. Nothing of mine fell, including a precariously placed trophy (I guess I should move that now) on top of my old boxy TV. But everything not on a solid surface shook.
"That was scary!" texted my Massachussetts-born fiancee, who works on a high floor in midtown Manhattan. "My first earthquake! My Cali coworkers are totally unfazed."
Or faking West Coast cool. This earthquake, while not as violent as some of the ones I remember in California — I woke up in the middle of the deadly Northridge quake of 1994 — was somehow more disorienting. Because it took so long to figure out what it was.
"I'm tracing the quake reactions of friends on Facebook," wrote the New York Times Brian Stelter. "First it was 'earthquake?' Then 'earthquake!' Then 'earthquake!!!!!!'"
In the middle of the quake, I looked over at my dog, sitting on a couch looking out the sixth-floor window. He barely looked up. So much for animals freaking out over quakes, much less predicting them.
Equally nonplussed were Keno brothers, of "Antiques Roadshow" fame. I was interviewing them during the quake about their new Fox show, "Buried Treasure."
Though they were speaking to me from New York, they made no mention of the earth shaking beneath them. Here's hoping their antiques are safe, as well.