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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Nation/World

East Coast Quake: One ATVN Producer's Live Account

A 5.8 earthquake centered near Richmond, Viriginia left the East Coast shaking.

The earthquake was centered near Mineral, Virginia, right outside of Richmond.
The earthquake was centered near Mineral, Virginia, right outside of Richmond.
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Richmond, Virginia rocked the east coast Tuesday, sending shakes up and down the eastern seaboard, felt everywhere from Washington, D.C. to New York City to eastern Canada.

It's common knowledge that earthquakes are a part of life on the west coast, specifically Southern California. There's always a new hypothesis about "The Big One," and a little bump from the ground here and there isn't out of the ordinary.

However, it came as a surprise to me when I was sitting in an upstairs lobby at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, doing an interview for a story I was working on at the 2011 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Student Project, when the ground started to move. It felt like the hotel was on springs, and we were just along for the ride.

It started off gently, but then the paintings on the wall began to shake and cutlery in a nearby conference room clattered. It became very clear to me that there was only one possibility: an earthquake on the east coast.

My colleague, an undergraduate journalism student at Arizona State University, started to panic, while my Southern California instincts told me to look for something to get under.

The audible inquiry of people around us about an earthquake rapidly grew into a loud declaration that there was indeed seismic activity shaking the ground in Philadelphia, and we were there to experience it.

When it was over, my Twitter feed flooded with news of the quake. Cell service was tied up, so the internet was the only way to gather information. My friends in New York, Washington, D.C., Montreal and Atlanta were all saying they'd just felt it when other news outlets reported the quake. According to Reuters, more than 40,000 tweets came in one minute after the shock.

I walked outside with a flood of others to find buildings all around downtown Philadelphia choked by crowds of people.

"We've been evacuated! We've been evacuated!" screamed a woman clad in business attire into her Blackberry. Though her reaction was one of the more extreme I saw, it was clear that people were shaken and stirred by the unexpected earthquake.

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