Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Growing up in western Illinois, we had floods and we were well drilled in what to do in the event of a tornado. One natural disaster we didn't worry much about was an earthquake. Even though minor quakes have hit the American midwest from time to time, I've never actually felt one.

Last night just before 2am IST, when I had the pleasure of still being in the office thanks to an all day videoconference with colleagues in the states (in their defense, they started at 6am CT so they were as tired on the front end of the meeting as we were on the back end), I felt my first earthquake. We had just broken for a short break when I felt the conference table gently begin to sway. Thinking someone was just tapping their leg and accidentally bumping the table, it wasn't an immediate concern. I sat back and suddenly had that "one too many cocktail" feelings as the room gently and mildly swayed from side to side. As an earthquake neophyte, it still didn't totally register (no pun intended). Finally, someone said "John, I thought you were just bumping the table but I think we're having an earthquake." At least I wasn't alone in my initial assessment. Sure enough, a few seconds later our boss entered the room and confirmed the more accurate and second assessment. At that point, to be on the safe side, we evacuated the building.

Knowing that CNN wouldn't have anything up about an earthquake seconds or minutes after it hit, I entered "earthquake" as a search string on Twitter and quickly learned that an earthquake registering 7.3 on the Richter scale had hit southwestern Pakistan. While the exact magnitude may have been slightly different, the information was surprisingly accurate and shows exactly how quickly information can spread in this age.

The entire episode lasted longer than I would have thought. Reports said twenty to thirty seconds though it seemed longer. I always imagined earthquakes being violent, jarring events that lasted only a few seconds. Last night's quake, at least far from the epicenter, while unsettling never really seemed dangerous. I'm sure there were others in Pakistan far greater impacted than myself; however, I consider myself lucky that my first earthquake experience was more of a novelty that I could compare to being intoxicated than a tragic natural disaster.

1 comment:

  1. Slept right through it! Am feeling guilty tonight that I haven't even googled the damages in Pakistan.