15th September, 2011
I was busy at work when I felt the earth beneath my feet start to vibrate. At first, I didnâ€™t know what to make of it. I was a little confused as I tried to imagine what could have caused the motions I had felt. A train track runs directly in front of our house in the village and the vibrations felt somewhat like the way the ground would shake at the approach of one of those noisy locomotive trains. Sometimes, you could feel the vibrations before you heard or saw the train. I looked round to see if I was the only one who had felt the strange motions and just then, the ground literally shuddered for a few seconds. At this point, I was certain that I was not imagining things and I wondered if the building was under some kind of terrorist attack. That is, after all, the kind of world we live in today.
It briefly occurred to me that it could have been an earthquake, but I brushed the thought aside. An earthquake? In DC? At this point there was a din as everybody was asking what on earth was going on. A woman beside me asked me if she was dreaming or if she had just felt the earth move. I told her if it was a dream, then it must be some kind of mass hallucination because everybody had felt the same tremors she had. She immediately got on the phone and called someone who turned out to be her mother who was in Virginia to ask her if she had felt the vibration. The answer was yes. By this time, it had become apparent that it had indeed been an earthquake.
Everybody ran to the window to take a look outside and there was an ongoing exodus of people from buildings. Some of them went to the middle of the street, away from the path of the buildings, in case the earthquake was not done. Most people just sort of hung around in clusters directly in front of the buildings, which sort of defeated the purpose for their going outside in the first place. If the earthquake were to actually occur again, they were in danger from falling buildings and flying debris.
We were still inside the building watching the action outside. It all seemed a little surreal and I tell you, I have never seen so many people out in the streets in DC at one time. People just kept pouring out of the offices and other buildings and soon, the whole streets were packed with people. Well, it was time to go downstairs and we took the staircase because nobody wanted to be trapped in an elevator if another earthquake occurred. Outside, everyone seemed to be talking at once since the event was both terrifying and amazing at the same time. Some people who didnâ€™t seem to get the memo were still sitting in front of cafÃ©s with glass facades, no less, eating salads and acting like they didnâ€™t know that earthquakes and glass didnâ€™t go together. The phone lines were clogged with people trying to make calls at the same time and it was hard to get through to anyone.
It didnâ€™t seem like there was going to be any more work that day. At this point, there was a mandatory evacuation going on and security guards were going round buildings to make sure that everyone left the premises. I debated the pros and cons of getting on the subway in the aftermath of an earthquake. I mean, who said this was the aftermath? What if the earth was not done shaking? In that case, the last place to be would have to be underground; imagine being trapped in the belly of the earth during an earthquake.
I eventually got home and I found out that it had been just as bad in that area. There were tales of an individual who had been taking a shower when the earthquake occurred and ran out of the house with only a towel, too scared to go back into the house to dress. One woman had been clutching her chest, saying she was about to have a heart attack.
Offices and schools closed the next day and people just tried to get a grip on the fact that there had just been an earthquake in an area that was not particularly prone to such an occurrence. Just as everything was returning to normal, another threat showed up in the form of Hurricane Irene. People were told to expect the worst, and in some low-lying areas, there were mandatory evacuations to shelters and other places located on higher ground, above the sea level. Hurricane Irene came, but it had been downgraded and it was not as fierce as some had predicted. Still, it dumped a full dayâ€™s worth of rain on the affected areas and also brought with it some strong winds. My neighbour advised me to take my flower baskets inside to avoid damage from the strong winds. They were already soaking wet and I decided to leave them where they were.
Again, this area is not known for extreme weather and some people are blaming the occurrences on climate change while others have more sinister theories. Some people have rediscovered their faith because they see this as a sign that the world is going nuts; you simply donâ€™t know what to expect from one moment to the next. I can tell you for sure that the churches and other places of worship recorded the most attendance since the history of these places after the two events. It would seem that these occurrences have reminded people of their mortality and some simply consider themselves exceedingly lucky that the events were not as bad as they might have been.
Imagine a scenario where people are busy having a board meeting, strategising and planning how to introduce a new product into the market when things start falling all around them and the ground beneath their feet opens up and starts swallowing things. That would put an end to all of those plans for sure. It would seem that life is not to be taken for granted and that everyone should live each day with a sense of thankfulness and a determination to be the best that they can be.
Some people have rediscovered their faith because they see this as a sign that the world is going nuts; you simply donâ€™t know what to expect from one moment to the next.
â€¢Ejim wrote this article for TheNEWS magazine