Monday, February 28, 2011

Nisqually Earthquake - 10 Years Later

Ten years ago, there was this little earthquake that happened in the Puget Sound. Here's how I remembered it.

I was driving to work. I had one of those jobs where I showed up in the late morning and worked until about 9 or 10 at night. I worked in Pioneer Square in a sixth floor office.

So I was in Lake Forest Park, driving south. I was driving down the street when two things happened simultaneously.

The first thing was that my tires rumbled strangely on the road. I thought for a second that I had a flat, but changed my mind quickly. I figured there were tracks on the asphalt. Have you ever driven on a part of a road where someone drove when the asphalt was still wet, and there's tire impressions baked into the road? It felt like that - like I was driving in a groove.

The second thing that happened was that Steve Sher and his guest stopped in the middle of a conversation and said things like "whoa!" and "oh, this is just like California." If you skip to the 1.00 mark in this video, you'll hear exactly what it sounded like.

So I knew two things: there was an earthquake, and nobody knew how bad it was. Sher said something like "I hope everyone is safe. We'll let you know once we know more."

So I had a forty-minute drive downtown still, and I didn't have a cell phone. All I had was KUOW, and I kept waiting and waiting to hear reports of damage, destruction, fatalities. I had no idea what I was driving into. For all I knew, everyone at my office had been pulverized.

As I got near downtown, I saw the strangest sights. Entire crowds of people were standing outside of their skyscraper offices. Huge mobs of people, standing on the sidewalk or even on the street. It was a little surreal.

I pulled off the highway, drove toward Pioneer Square. As I went down Jackson Street, I saw this scene.

That was just four blocks from my office.

I got to my office, and I saw all of my co-workers standing on the sidewalk. Nobody was hurt. The worst damage that happened was a potted plant had tipped over and spilled some dirt onto the carpet. A restaurant in the first floor of our building had a nasty crack in one of its walls, but the building was still sound. We called off work for the day. I called this girl that had been seeing for a few months - who later became my fiance, who later became my wife. She was fine. It could have been much worse. But for a few minutes, I was convinced that I was going to drive downtown to see the smoking ruins of buildings. It was a weird feeling.

Seven months later, the World Trade Center collapsed, and it really started to feel like the world was spinning out of control.

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