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Shake, rattle and post

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Social networking sites full of quake stories

By Chris Sardelli

It was just another Tuesday afternoon when the shaking started.
For some, it was just a soft rumble they figured was a truck backing up or a low-flying airplane.
For others, the shaking was so bad it knocked pictures off walls and made buildings sway.
The tremors rippled as far south as Georgia and north to New England, and in some places people were so scared they evacuated buildings and ran into the streets.
It only lasted about 15 seconds, but the discussion about what just happened lasted for days. As it turns out, we had all unwittingly joined the “East Coast Earthquake” club and everyone had a story.
At 1:51 p.m., a 5.8 earthquake rocked the town of Mineral, Va., about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. The shallow quake produced shock waves felt up and down the East Coast.
By 2 p.m., people had clogged telephone lines as people tracked down loved ones.
By 2:30 p.m., online social networks were crammed full of posts from people all along the coast, swapping stories and telling where they were during the “big” quake of ’11.
One of our readers, Nancy Brasington, posted her story on The Lancaster News’ Facebook page about an hour after the quake.
“I was in the car rider (lane) at Buford Elementary and felt my car shaking, felt like it would if the wind was blowing hard enough to make your car rock but, there was no wind,” she said.
Calls started coming into our office soon after. One man, who lives in the Buford community, thought his washing machine was out of balance. That must be one heck of a spin cycle, we thought in the newsroom.
But it wasn’t just locals who were trying to make sense of the tremors.
Kelly Wing, who works in Chantilly, Va., was sitting at her desk when the blinds in her office started to shake. Her first thought was it’s a jet landing at nearby Dulles International Airport.
“Then the entire five-story office building started to shake and sway back and forth. I never for a second thought it was an earthquake,” Wing said. “I got up from my desk to find some of my co-workers huddled under the door frame of my boss’ office.”
Siobhan Smith was running an errand in Washington, D.C., and had just stepped onto an escalator at a Metro stop.
“It started shaking like crazy. When I got to the sidewalk, the shaking had stopped and people were already streaming out of their buildings,” Smith said. “I ended up trapped for about an hour with no cell service down on Freedom Plaza with a few zillion other people and first responders.”
She said the ensuing commotion reminded her of 9/11.
“Most people seemed bewildered or bemused, but a few folks were panicking and crying. Mostly everyone was sort of annoyed, though,” she said.
Lindsay Dobucki was napping when the quake struck her 19th century greystone in Baltimore. She woke to find her German shepherd, Eich, barking at the walls.
“I thought our neighbors were moving something really heavy down the hall, and it was causing the floor to vibrate. Then I realized the entire building was shaking and swaying,” Dobucki said.  
She desperately tried to remember what to do in the event of an earthquake.
“My first instinct was to go to the basement. ‘No...that’s not right’ a little voice said in my head,” she recalled. “Maybe I should get in the bathtub with a mattress over my head? ‘Nope, try again,’ said the same little voice.”
By the time she figured out what to do, the shaking was over. Later she went out for “I survived the earthquake” ice cream with some of her neighbors.
Even New Englanders were left scratching their heads Tuesday.
Christina Donovan was helping her younger brother, Jason, move into his first apartment in Norwich, Conn., at the time.
“We were going over a bridge near downtown and felt it,” Donovan posted online. “We didn’t know what it was until a couple hours later. That is so crazy we felt it all the way up in CT!”
Anthony Bottan, editor of an online newspaper, thought his eyes were playing tricks on him in his Rockville Centre, N.Y., office.
“My desk started literally moving toward me. My glass of water next to me began swirling, and all I could think of was Jurassic Park,” Bottan said.
“Then the paintings on my office wall began to flap against the wall. Completely weirded out, and thinking that a ghost had infiltrated my work space, I ran outside and called a friend, who told me to turn on CNN,” he added.
As for my story, where was I during the “great” quake of 2011?
Was I huddled under a door frame or worried Godzilla was about to attack?
Did I watch furniture move across the room or wonder if a helicopter was landing on the roof?
Nope. Turns out The Lancaster News can also double as a bomb shelter and we didn’t feel a thing.
I feel so left out.

Chris Sardelli is a reporter for The Lancaster News.