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February 28, 2001, A Date Which Will Live, In Infamey.

(well, not really)

Right before 11:00am, PST, Seattle experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake (as reported by the University of Washington seismology lab).

I was in my room, finishing off the last few pieces of 135 Chemistry problems which I had neglected doing until the morning before they were all due. I have been in a few earthquakes, so, after the realization dawned on me that the shaking was not from people upstairs me and my mother dashed outside.

I am aware that running away is exactly not what school earthquake drills had taught me, however, I have a rather inescapable conjecture which argues the contrary: How many doorways and tables have you seen standing after a building collapses? Me either.

This was the first time I had ever been outside during an earthquake. It was rather surreal seeing the earth sway and heave, like a living, breathing entity.

After the swaying stopped I went over my old 9th grade geology I had taken at the UW. It dictated that this swaying could be pretense to the most violent stage of an earthquake, when the ground both moves up and down and from side to side. So, we waited out for a few more minutes till it seemed safe.

After that, I learned that Bellevue Community College had closed for the day, I sat down and watched the news coverage. I was amazed as it went from local news all the way up to CNN, getting hours upon hours of nonstop "Breaking News" coverage, on the national arena no less. Some channels continued reporting even when primetime rolled around.

This reporting was totally unnecessary. Nothing of any severity happened. The phone lines died for a few hours, some people lost power, one person died of a heart attack and three more were seriously injured. Only one, very, very old building went through any extensive damage. Any other damage which occured was on the order of foundation cracks and the like.

Since Seattle is long overdue for a 9.0 earthquake, (not to mention Mt. Rainier erupting) I think this made for a good drill, atleast to prepare the uninitiated citizenry in what to expect when the big one hits.

One hundred miles (160 km) north of the earthquake's epicenter, in Vancouver BC, the earth moved. Slightly. Office buildings downtown wobbled for a few seconds and a few plants were evacuated and a school near the border closed because of cracked plaster. People clogged the phone lines to ask each other, "Dude, did you feel that? Like, whoa."

The earthquake was 100 miles away. It was a 6.8 on the Richter scale. To us, it was over in thirty seconds. There was no real damage.

Most of our news coverage was focused on what happened here, person-on-the-street type. It was only a few minutes into the newscast did any information surface what was going on down in Seattle and Olympia. The news on tv showed a few crushed cars, a bridge out and facades crumbled in the older district of Seattle.

Over the next few days, I am sure that the newspapers and airwaves will be full of earthquake prevention information, such as "don't call right after the earthquake and jam up phone lines" and "if the earthquake is stronger than 7.3, Richmond will sink into the ocean and downtown Vancouver will collapse into a pile of glass shards". I'm just worried that people will shrug off this earthquake and not think about what might happen next time.

What if?

The question may register in my mind, long enough for me to ensure that I have bottled water on hand and some canned goods. Then I'll forget about the threat and just think how it felt when the ground started moving and I wasn't even sure what was going on.

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