Well this certainly is an interesting week. Yes, I was a little shaken up by the earthquake on Tuesday. I will readily admit it. While our friends on the west coast giggle about it, I would like to remind them that we on the east are simply not used to quakes. -- a 5.8 quake is not a small one, despite the giggles and jokes about chai latte, plastic lawn chairs, etc. With the earthquake out of the way, many people here on the east coast are preparing for what may potentially be a devastating hurricane.
It's not lost on me that this week is also the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on Monday, August 29, 2005. Nor have I forgotten that we are fast approaching the tenth anniversary of the Attacks of September 11. These were seminal events; ones that caused panic, sadness and fear and death for many Americans.
On Tuesday, I was lying on the couch. I was watching a bit of TV before I was to go and vote in the Virginia Democratic primary. I felt a rhythmic thump on the back of the couch, and I assumed it was our dog wagging her tail. I quickly realized that it wasn't the dog, and that was when things got a little crazy. I stood up grabbed the couch and caught the lamp as it nearly fell on me. The bookshelves swayed and the piano started banging against the opposite wall. I knew this was a damn earthquake, and in those 30-45 seconds I froze. I was actually proud of myself for having the wherewithall to make sure I was out of the line of the bookshelves and the Piano -- I turned my face away from our large living room window. I really didn't know what else to do. I was scared, to be quite honest. When It stopped, I was even more frightened.
I was afraid that it was just the beginning. I was waiting for more quakes. I wasn't sure if things would get worse or if it was over. I called Bob and told him what happened and after I hung up I cried. I felt silly for doing that, I didn't know why I was crying, until I knew why I was crying. The last time I felt such uncertainness, was on September 11, 2001.
I never thought it was an attack, or a bomb --I want to make that clear -- but on Tuesday, I realized that the shock of those attacks has not fully left me. Nor has it left hundreds of thousands of people.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., was walking up Capitol Hill on his way to preside over a pro-forma session of the Senate when Tuesday's earthquake hit. Feeling the ground sway, he sat down on a bench.
"My concern was that it was something other than an earthquake," Coons said. He ended up presiding over a 22-second technical session in a conference room of a building near the Capitol.
A quake was not the first thought either for Lisa Goeas, who works in a building a few blocks from the White House and near a city subway station.
"Our building is right across the street from the Metro, so we thought a bomb went off," said a shaken Goeas, who fled her office with her colleagues.
In New York, workers in the Empire State Building spilled into the streets, some having descended dozens of flights of stairs.
"I felt dizzy, man," said Adrian Ollivierre, a 28-year-old accountant who was in his office on the 60th floor. "I thought I was having maybe a heart attack, and I saw everybody running. I think what it is, is the paranoia that happens from 9/11, and that's why I'm still out here — because, I'm sorry, I'm not playing with my life."
"I thought we'd been hit by an airplane," he said.
On September 11. 2001, as I have often told you -- the most frightening part was not knowing what would happen next. I remember quite vividly I walked into St. Patrick's Cathedral for a moment of sanctuary-- until I realized that if we were going to be attacked a third time in that city, the church would have been a perfect target, so I left. Tuesday was only a few seconds, as opposed to a day, but I realized that no -- I am not quite over the terror, even knowing immediately it was not a bomb. It was an earthquake.
Sometimes, you can't control how you feel. There is no way to prepare for the moment when something so sudden happens. Despite the years that go by, perhaps the emotions that so many were left with after the attacks will never fully go away. Some thought we we were being attacked, others were simply scared. I had hoped I would never have to relive that feeling of utter helplessness and unknowing. I was wrong. There is still fear there.30 seconds is what it took to remind me of that. I don't really know if it will ever fully go away.
With the earthquake come and gone, it is time to prepare for Hurricane Irene. We joke about rushing to the store to buy the necessities (The trifecta as some of members here call it) but it is in preparation that we have control. Feeling like I have some control despite the chaotic randomness of life gives me comfort.
This was not Katrina, nor was it a terror attack, I hope people understand that I am not trying to conflate the two things. Nothing really can compare to them, but the feelings that are left are real. There's nothing wrong with feeling them. I know the west coast is used to earthquakes, but many of us from DC and NYC became sensitive to something very different on September 11, 2001. The Gulf coast experienced something else six years ago this week. It was a far different situation, but I suspect they too had their psyche forever altered.
There are still scars. We may not all share the same experiences as each other, but I would hope we would try to be mindful of our fellow humans. For some, this was just an earthquake
, for others it was a reminder of something else. As one person said, life is fragile, handle with care.