Your First Minor Earthquake: What to Expect

As a Midwesterner who’s lived in St. Paul, Toronto, and now New York, today was my first earthquake experience in 24 years of life. Here’s what to expect if you’re experiencing your first earthquake relatively late in life.

Time sort of slowed down, in the way that it does when you’re in an emergency situation, so it felt like the building was slowly rocking—like a swing chair does when it’s almost stopped swinging. For the first few tremors I wasn’t sure if I was actually feeling what I was feeling. Then I decided that yes, I was certainly feeling the ground and my desk move. I started to feel like I usually feel after a caffeine binge: hyper and wide-eyed and a little ready to fight someone. I decided I must be having a psychotic break. I spent the next few seconds planning how I would get to the elevator and back to the seclusion of my apartment without revealing to co-workers that I was tripping balls.

Then other people in the office started asking “DID YOU FEEL THAT?! WHAT WAS THAT?!” The word “earthquake” was tossed around, but it seemed really implausible to me and I started to wonder whether the best thing to do during a terrorist attack on Midtown is leave your building and run or barricade yourself inside and start filling all the water bottles your company bought for promos.

Ultimately I left the building with a small convoy of co-workers and stood on the sidewalk with about 100 other people from my building, who were all shouting things about earthquakes and about how they NEED to get on Twitter, NOW.  Slowly everyone accepted that it had been a minor earthquake. I went back inside to snide remarks from my co-worker from Berkeley who “didn’t even feel anything.” My boss came back after having been gone for the whole thing and asked if we’d felt the quake. “Yes,” I said, “I thought I was going insane!” He responded, “Well, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” Zing!

And that is what a minor earthquake is like.

- Linnea Goderstad

Authentic photo of damage from the East Coast earthquake by Jaron Brass (Creative Commons)