Reporter's Notebook: My 6.8 Earthquake Experience

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My first thought was, "What are the earthquake instructions these days. Run? Get under a table? Stand in a doorway? I have totally forgotten the rules." I looked at the nearest table, a rickety folding thing in the exhibit hall with a cheap polyester hem attached. That's not going to protect anyone from anything. So I ran.

I happened to be standing in the back of the exhibit hall on the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center when the earthquake struck. The hall was sparsely populated, mainly with exhibitors lolling around waiting for conference delegates to get out of the second round of morning sessions.

The ceilings shook, but, oddly, the light fixtures didn't fall. The rumbling and rocking continued for what seemed like a minute or two. And then stopped. I joined the crowd that was assembling on the plaza outside the fourth floor registration area. It was outdoors, so we had a sense of comfort -- a false sense, when we thought about it, because we were still four floors above the ground.

The conference crowd -- delegates, Direct Marketing Association staff, convention center staff -- milled around in the chilly air. Someone had distributed cream-colored tablecloths, and a number of the women wrapped themselves up as the minutes ticked by, and we all compared notes on the experience.

At last, Mike Faulkner, a senior DMA staff member, stood on the railing with a bullhorn and let us know that no one was injured, and that the rest of the conference was being canceled. Then a bunch of logistics -- the Sheraton had power, so we could make our way back there; one member from each exhibitor team would be allowed to go pick up stuff to take away.

The atmosphere turned from mild shock to amusement. Hey, we not only survived, we get out early! People began making plans to head home or go out partying.

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