Quake Stories: '45 of the Longest Seconds I Can Recall'Does Seattle Get Earthquakes?
"Does Seattle get earthquakes?" is what I recall thinking while being crouched under a table at the session I was attending. You could tell the other Californians at the session -- under tables -- while all you could see were running legs and plaster dust as ceiling tiles and light fixtures fell around us. It was most definitely 45 of the longest seconds I can ever recall!
Steve Jauch, Senior Consultant, Marketing Programs, Wheelhouse Corp., SanFrancisco
Floor Was 'Behaving Badly'
I was just doing my thing at our booth, which happened to be right next to Brandon, the fabulous Internet parachutist, who was wearing a helmet already. I was halfway through a three-minute presentation to two women when I happened to look down at the floor and noticed it was behaving badly. It was doing things it wasn't supposed to do. At that moment, thought and emotion began to be measured in NFL or NBA time, where minutes can last hours. I looked to the ceiling and noticed that it, too, was behaving badly, and now there was a rumbling and creaking noise.
When I looked back down, the two ladies had split, evaporated. I looked over at Diana Cordoba, who was in the booth with me and I made a command decision to not dash out of the convention hall, through possible falling shards of glass in the atrium and who knows what other forms of shrapnel.
I figured some engineer had all this worked out and that the steel girder beams would not come unhinged and that our main threat was the light fixtures that looked like they could come unglued from swinging so wildly. We ducked into the cabinets of our trusty booth made of the finest veneer and pressboard this side of the Mississippi.
The shaking, swaying and rolling stopped. We grabbed cell phones, laptops, jackets and briskly walked out of the place. Outside, people were OK. Lots of people smoking, people who don't normally. Everybody was trying to make a call, and few could get a line. There was some anxiety, but after 10 or 15 minutes, people were getting back to themselves and relaxing a little.
Finally, we were able to get back inside, grab the precious few business cards and contact notes we were able to get from the lean conference and go back to our hotels and watch the news and wonder how much worse it could have been.
Mike Carney, President, DirectQlick.com, Mission Viejo, CA
Printer Still Going
I was home printing a huge batch of RockAuto.com direct mail postcards and getting my 3-year-old son ready for an afternoon appointment. The moment the quake hit, I was helping my son dry off after his shower. We both sat down in the bathtub.
The feeling was like riding a subway: movement in every direction. The noise was the most alarming. The shower doors were vibrating like they were possessed, and our poor dog was yelping for help into the tub. It seemed like the quake lasted for minutes rather than seconds.
After the quake, I was amazed to find nothing broken. Stuff had fallen off shelves, but not a single thing was damaged. My computer monitor had flipped backward but was still on the desk. The most amazing thing was that my little Canon printer was still busy printing out postcards. It had danced around the desk but continued to flawlessly print. I hope the potential customers on this mailing list realize how lucky they are to get a RockAuto.com postcard!
Tom Taylor, Vice President of Marketing, RockAuto.com Auto Parts, Kenmore, WA
A Bond Between Professionals
I was in my hotel room (31st floor of the Sheraton) working on a presentation I was making to a group the next morning. There were several very nervous people (myself included) who ran down 31 flights of stairs to the sales/marketing offices after the 30 seconds, or so, of the building swaying and shaking.
I must say that the Sheraton personnel did a tremendous job in instructing us and comforting us. Additionally, in the earthquake's aftermath, there seemed to be a genuine bond between many of the professionals in our industry, and that is as important as business itself.
Jerry Whiteway, President MetaResponse Group Inc., Palm City, FL 34990
Humanity Present in All Forms
When I found out I was going to Seattle for the net.marketing show, impending rain was the only bother I expected to experience. To my surprise, along came an event that has changed the way I see the world and my place in it.
As I stood in my booth, I looked forward to be relieved at 11 to check out the exhibition hall myself. As the floor started to shake and people started running, my first thought was "I am all alone here, with no one I know."
I was terrified. No experience in my life to date could prepare me for an earthquake. I panicked and ran to the doorway with others and basically fell apart. In my time of unbalance, two women from Beefree.com came to my aid. I will never forget Heather Pilat and Shannon Walters. That day, in an instant they became my friends. In a sea of strangers they offered support and comfort. They calmed me down and said that we had to go outside. I was afraid and had seen things falling in the glass-enclosed lobby. They stayed with me for nearly 30 minutes before I found my colleague, Paul Ercolino.
In 20 seconds, my almost 25 years led up to that moment. My whole life I have searched for a truer understanding of why we are put on the Earth. What is my purpose? Where are my talents? I had recently come to the conclusion that it is vital to feel fulfilled and connected to the work you do, and the people you encounter. However, I was convinced I would not find that in the marketing arena.
I have also never really felt comfortable at trade shows. I seek to find connections with people. My experience at recent shows revealed many people who called you by your first name as if they've always known you simply because it's printed on your name badge. On Feb. 28, Heather and Shannon were more than names on a badge to me.
In my quest to connect with people in a place that is rightfully full of business-oriented conversation, it took an earthquake to show me that humanity is present in all forums. It is present in the business world, despite what some may think. In a time where some were strong, and others afraid, the strong stood by those in need. So beneath the marketing plans, the free hats and the sales pitches, there are people who need us to be just that - people.
If I took away anything from living through the experience, it is the true nature of the human condition. My mind has been opened to the possibility of experiencing compassion in places where I will least expect it. I am grateful for the wakeup call, and the insight I have gained as a result.
Stephanie Licata, U.S. Monitor New City, NY
Scary, Even for a Californian
Yikes! It was very scary. I am a California native and the Seattle one was the strongest I've ever felt. The people at the conference were very calm. I am sure that this was a first earthquake for a lot of out-of-towners. I noticed several ceiling tiles had fallen but that was the only damage I surveyed.
Shelley Lindly, Director of administration, zmedia.com, Redwood City, CA
Airport in Shambles
My co-worker and I left the conference at 10 that morning and were at the airport when it hit. We both ducked under a table to avoid the lights and glass structures that were falling from the ceiling. It was the most frightening experience I've ever had.
Lynn Salmons, Just My Size Catalog, Winston-Salem, NC
There's Always Spam to Eat
Here is what we joked about after the quake: We give away spam cans in our booth as "the only spam you'll ever get from Focalex." We decided that if the quake had been worse and we were trapped inside the convention center at least spam would be good for something -- we could eat it until we were rescued!
Seth W. Lieberman, Focalex Inc.
Something to Talk About Besides the Tumbleweeds
I was pleasantly surprised at how calm and orderly most of us who were rushing out of the exhibit hall were when the world around us was shaking. Until I looked up and saw the huge light fixtures of the hall swaying, I didn't realize how big this earthquake was.
When reminiscing about this conference, at least we all have something else to talk about instead of the tumbleweed rolling down the exhibit hall floor. The show was a major disappointment.
Michael A. Berger, Senior Marketing Services Director, List Management Group, ClientLogic, Denver