An Earthquake in Baltimore?!

by Abby on August 24, 2011

earthquakeYesterday just before 2pm, per usual during my kids’ nap time, I was sitting at my desk with about 5 different tabs open on my laptop. (Gmail, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Word, if you’re curious.) I heard a thumping, shaking noise overhead and my first thought was, “Raccoons!” (We have a sordid history with raccoons in our house.)

Within seconds, however, it became clear that unless there was a herd of them in the attic and they were all morbidly obese, it was not raccoons. My 5yo son came running into the room, wild-eyed. “Mom! Come look!” His bookcase was swaying dangerously. (Dammit! WHY did we not attach those anti-tip thingies to the wall?! Remember that “Modern Family” episode where Phil does just that after an earthquake while his wife is stuck in the bathroom with the plumber, so she won’t yell at him for forgetting to do it? TOTALLY something my husband would do.)

Anyway, the house was now SHUDDERING. It was scary. We stood in the doorway for a second, then ran into the bathroom and jumped in the tub. (Foolishly, as C. later pointed out, since that’s what you do in a tornado.) Later, I would kick myself for not even considering waking the baby up from his nap or getting everyone outside. It never even occurred to me. But it all happened so fast.

I was more confused than scared at first (Wha?? Huh? An earthquake in Maryland?!), but I quickly began to panic. I could see that my son was starting to lose it. “Are we OK, Mom? ARE WE?? Is it ALIENS?!” he beseeched me with frightened eyes. That snapped me out of it.

“Yes! Yes, we’re OK. Everything’s fine. See? It stopped. I think that was an earthquake! We’re OK now.” I was talking to myself as much as to him.

I ran back to the computer and found Twitter and Facebook flooded with messages about the earthquake. Everyone from Canada to North Carolina was saying they felt it. Within seconds I knew that a 5.8 earthquake had hit Virginia and was felt up and down the East Coast. I briefly talked to my husband and neighbor but soon neither my cell phone nor landline worked. Within an hour, though, everything was pretty much back to normal.

This is the thought that kept coming back to me: nobody warns you about this stuff when you become a parent. Where’s the manual for this?! Some freak occurrence happens, you have to register what’s going on, react, reassure, and not scar your kid for life in the process. That’s a lot of pressure, people!!

When C. came home from work, he talked to Miles about what causes earthquakes and they watched a little educational video on YouTube. It was OK. We were OK. Thank God it was just an earthquake and not obese raccoons or aliens, huh?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

D Bianchi August 24, 2011 at 9:07 am

The paranoia was felt all the way here in NY. I think here on the East Coast we are not prepared mentally for earthquakes. I know here we know exactly what to do in 4 feet of snow or bad thunderstorms but earthquakes, forget it. With the way the weather has been in recent years, I think we need to start thinking ‘worldly’ as far as being prepared!


Viv August 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

You are going to love this — I was on the bowl! Yup. So my life. Thankfully my big kid was in camp, and my little kid was out playing with her sitter. Neither felt a thing.

Beware obese raccoons!


Kim August 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Wow, you really felt it for the bookcase to be moving so much! I am glad you were all okay. I think living in an area where earthquakes happen frequently makes the people there prepared mentally for one, but to experience an earthquake in an area that doesn’t get them seems like it would be harder to deal with. And for it to be felt up and down the east side of the U.S. is amazing. I hope there won’t be more activity out there for you all!


Lou Mello August 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I hardly know where to start….yes, we do need Parent Manuals for how to panic with a calm face. I am in Charleston, SC and sitting in a four floor office building that was only built 3 years ago and when it hit I was in my chair and the whole building started swaying and waving from side to side and side to forward for about 20 to 25 seconds.
I knew within a couple of seconds what it was since we lived just a bit east of San Francisco for 7 years before coming to the land of hurricanes, tornadoes and locusts (OK, Palmetto bugs, but, just as ugly and nasty).

I was really surprised at how much swaying there was and I guess that’s good since the buildings here are supposed to be able to sway to keep from collapsing. We also have a large fault line here and the last “big one” was in 1896 and it was an 8.0 or something very close to that.

Glad it wasn’t too bad for you guys and good teachable moment as well…like in run like crazy and cover yourself in hot butter. Oops, that’s not it, oh well, I guess I haven’t quite yet snapped out of my panicky state. Stay tuned for more hysteria as we beg Irene to be gone. BTW, I’ll have to tell the story sometime about how my 3 year old daughter became a human projectile in a blizzard….or, when things go bump in the night.


Angie August 25, 2011 at 6:02 am

Wow! The network cut in at 2pm to announce the earthquake… I know because I had just turned on the TV to catch a local press conference about the hurricane. Soon, our local news was reporting that people felt the earthquake here… in Charleston.

I wouldn’t know what to do in an earthquake. Don’t get in a bathtub. Check. Stand in a doorway? Is it really better to go outside? I guess so, since we don’t want the ceiling falling on us. Crazy.

I did experience one minor earthquake, many years ago, before kids and I just stood there. I do think there’s bound to be a brief moment when you just freeze. So glad you’re safe!


katie August 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm

“Is it aliens?”–I love it!! My best friend said her first thought was that she had a ghost! Stress really does make us do (or say) funny things! 🙂


Kelli @ writing the waves August 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

I know – I need a MANUAL!!!! And now with Hurricane Irene…what in the world??? Can’t believe we moved back up here to escape tornadoes and now this. I hope you guys stay safe.


Shannon @ AnchorMommy September 8, 2011 at 12:18 am

Scary!!! When I was a kid here in Idaho, an earthquake hit while my brother and I were getting ready to head out the door to the bus stop. I’ll never forget my mother grabbing on to me and yanking my brother away from the top of the staircase, and we just stood there in shock until the shaking stopped. My brother and I were super thrilled with the whole thing and thought it was a lot of fun, but I never stopped to think about what must have been going on in my mom’s head until I read your post. Manuals! Yes, please!!


Mary Kate September 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Manual, yes please! I was home with our 3-year old. At first I froze, but after I realized what was going on, I decided we needed to get out of the house. After it was over we got in the car and drove to my mom’s. In a frenzy I forgot to lock-up but thankfully I have one of those handy keychains that allow me to arm our home security system from my car. I love anything that makes life easier! Hopefully the east-coast has seen the last of mother nature for awhile.


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