We have nothing to fear but fear itself

One year ago today was the 2011 Virginia Earthquake.  I had safely left the region exactly one month before, and my reaction was a bit mixed; part of me was sorry to have missed such excitement and part of me was very glad to have missed it.

Now if you live in California, you might have pooh-poohed the media reaction of such an event — or you might have shown great empathy. Some of you have been through much worse that this particular earthquake!

Washington Monument with cherry blossoms, March 2011

But before you write it off as overblown, consider being at the 500-foot level of the Washington Monument during an earthquake. This security footage from the National Park Service will help you envision what it was like:

NPS security footage from the 500-ft level of the Washington Monument during 2011 earthquake

My embedding failed (should have worked, as this is from Wikipedia Commons and is public domain), so you will need to click the link.

At one point during this video, you will see a man in a hat come back up the stairs. He is a National Park Service employee who was following NPS protocol, going down to open the emergency door and returning up to ensure that everyone had safely made it out.

There are 2 other NPS security videos available to watch. All of them show debris falling from above. I imagine it was pretty scary to be up in that tower!


6 thoughts on “We have nothing to fear but fear itself

  1. Wow – scarey indeed. Now – first I thought that the first ranger, who ran down the stairs at the beginning, was wrong not to see that everyone got out, but then at the end it appears there’s a second ranger who is the last one out – so I suppose the first ranger is leading people and opening the door, while the other one’s responsibility is to make sure no one is left behind?

    • Aunt Snow, I’d thought the same thing, but then I realized there were at least 2 rangers at that level and I read that the first one, indeed, was to lead the way and open the emergency exit door while the other stayed to guide people out. At the end, one has to come back up and double-check that the area has been cleared.
      I’ve felt small quakes before but I’ve never been in a potentially unsafe place during a significant earthquake. I hope to keep my run of luck!

  2. Growing up in the Seattle area, we had earthquake drills at school where we crawled under our desks and fire drills were we filed outside and stood far from the building.

    In Virginia, the kids had fire drills and tornado drills (crouch in windowless hallways with heads tucked between knees). They actually needed and used the tornado drill one afternoon, although my middle schooler at the time did not realize it wasn’t a drill (probably because his school was built for such a situation and there was no way of knowing it was a real storm).
    My oldest was in first grade when the tragedy occurred in Columbine, so my kids have never known life without blackout drills. I don’t know if I am relieved they don’t know the difference or sad that they have never known a more innocent time.

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