The Great East Coast Earthquake – as Tuesday’s seismic incident may some day be called – thankfully fell well short of a catastrophe.
In fact, many people missed entirely the local rumblings of the Virginia/Washington, D.C., temblor.
Or perhaps the rumblings missed them.
Here at The Tribune-Democrat, staffers testified to feeling everything from shaking and wobbling to absolutely nothing at all.
In one case, a guy sitting at a desk felt the quake and saw his computer monitor totter, while another standing beside him said, “What earthquake?”
My office windows look out on an attractive alley that separates our building from the one next door.
Many times, delivery trucks have stopped in that alley while dropping of their wares, and I’ve felt the rhythmic rolling of the trucks’ engines as they idled while the drivers delivered.
When the quake rolled through, that’s what I first thought it was. But there was no truck in the alley, no deep cadence from a train chugging past a block away.
I quickly decided it was – gasp! – an honest-to-goodness earthquake right here in the generally stable Laurel Highlands.
I headed for the newsroom to see what others had experienced, and found reporters, photographers and editors debating what had just happened – or if anything had happened.
The next day, we posted a poll on our website asking to what degree people experienced the quake – which scientists say rumbled from Georgia all the way to New England.
As I’m writing this, 48 percent of the poll respondents answered, “I didn’t feel a thing.” And 33 percent said they felt it only slightly, while only 19 percent characterized the quaking as “very strong.”
How could the windows in my office rattle and the lines running into the next building bounce up and down, and half of you didn’t feel a thing?
A natural mystery, apparently.
* * *
At least folks on the quake-riddled West Coast got a few laughs at the expense of us Easterners who were feeling such rumblings for the first time (those who actually did).
One Californian wondered on the Internet: “All this excitement over a 5.8 quake??? Come on East Coast, we have those for breakfast out here!!!!”
I got a nice chuckle out of a photograph that was circulating on the web that showed a picnic table and four lawn chairs, with one of the chairs toppled over. The image carried this humorous headline: “DC Earthquake Devastation.”
Another Sunshine State would-be comedian tweeted of the quake’s severity: “That’s what us Californians use to stir our coffee with.”
Frankly, I doubt any of those West Coast hecklers would make it one minute during a good old wintertime Nor’easter, with snow piling up only long enough to be whipped around by biting winds.
And they wouldn’t be laughing in the face of “lake-effect snow” – or even one of our region’s flash-flood episodes.
Yes, let them have their laughs.
In the end, they’re the ones actually living on fault lines.
* * *
Speaking of laughs and fault lines, the jokes began almost as the Great Quake’s quivering had subsided (if it ever happened at all).
It seems the seismic event helped explain how Washington had managed to misplace a few trillion dollars in the past year or so.
The joke goes something like this: There’s apparently a fault line running right under the nation’s capital. The Republicans say it’s Obama’s Fault. The Democrats say it’s Bush’s Fault. ...
A funny tweet suggested the quake was a Democratic ploy to invert the president’s sliding approval rating.
Now that’s funny.
Or maybe the shaking was from all of those Republican presidential candidates jumping all over Obama.
Late-night funnyman David Letterman quipped that the quake was “the two scariest seconds of my life.”
I thought it was more like 30 seconds.
But hey ... who’s quibbling?
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.