seattle earthquake

by Carson Reynolds

Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2001 13:23:53 -0800 (PST)
From: D. Johnson
Subject: Earthquake

Everything’s fine. I thought it was fun, but only because it was my first
one. I was smiling with dumb amazement through the whole 30 second ride. I
was awed that it was actually possible for the world to move like that. It
reminded me of floating in the waves at Malaquite Beach, except I was
standing in the cafe in the bottom of a 3-story atrium in the big
concrete architecture building. It was like something from a
dream, so unreal. But I instantly thought, “OK, So this is what an
earthquake feels like.” The building flopped around like rubber.

It was interesting to see people react. I felt something weird and
thought: “Oh, that must be an earthquake, one of those little
ones that I never feel and then I see on the news that we had a
3.0 or something.” But it kept growing. Everyone in the cafe and I were
doing “life as usual” with our minds when suddenly we all had the same
thought at once: “This is an earthquake right now, a big one.” Then, I
don’t know if anyone said it out loud, but I remember thinking, “Whoa,
just hold on, we’ll ride it out…” as if waiting for a train to pass by,
or being
passed on the highway by a semi-truck. The building creaked and popped,
and suspended lights in the upstairs computer lab were rocking back and
forth from their lines. I don’t know what the actual motion was, but i had
the sensation of floating in chest-high swells at the beach, and the
building looked like it was getting wobbled by waves too. If normal life
is like fishing from a canoe on still water, this was like an invisible
speedboat that passes at a distance and sends a rolling wake through your

I never got really scared because the building looked like it was doing
fine, and the rolling never got intense enough to make me doubt the
structure. I inched along the wall to the door frame, though. I thought
about what was up above my head, and what falling debris danger there
might be. Sooner than I could really size-up the situation, it was
slackening and then over, with just a very slight sway that you might
feel if you were lightheaded, or just got off a boat. The sway lasted
another 15 seconds, and then everything seemed solid again.

I remember thinking, Wow! That was trippy! If it weren’t so dangerous or
messy, I’d say do it again!

My housemate Jeremy was on the toilet at home when it happened. At first
he thought that I was jumping up and down upstairs. Not a single thing out
of place at the house. My girlfriend said that all her kitchen cabinets
were open when she got home. A few people I know said that some bookcases
fell over.

The only real damage to the city is brick facades that peeled off of
turn-of-the-century buildings downtown. I went to a talk last night at an
old church that had cracked plaster in symmetrical joints across the whole
building. I read in the paper his morning that Seattle is 1/5 of an inch
lower today than it was on Wednesday morning. I don’t know how they
calculate that. Ricter 6.8, ~50km through solid rock under Puget Sound.

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