Earthquake shakes up a day of reporting

A rumble. Shaking.

What was that? Are they drilling the new Comcast internet line again? Or was it the HVAC system?

The rumbling returns — louder, stronger.

Something is not right.

I think of the air raid drills when I was a kid and my elementary school was near a small airport. I contemplate diving under my desk.

A coworker announces: “They’re feeling it in Bowie, too!”

Before I have a chance to join the dust bunnies under my desk, an editor across the room relays the order from a big boss: “It’s an earthquake! Everybody out of the building!”

I grab my purse and camera bag — always, always grab your stuff in an emergency, I’ve learned — and hustle outside with everyone else.

Earthquake front page of The Capital, Aug. 24, 2011.

We stand bewildered for a few moments, blinking in the bright sun, trying to process the fact that we’ve experienced a real earthquake.

I come to my senses and pull out my phone. My first call is not to a loved one — more evidence that journalists are not normal people — but to the fire department’s media hotline.

As I leave my message, I don’t recognize the slight quaver in my voice. I ask if they’ve gotten earthquake reports because, boy, we sure felt one just now in Annapolis.

Next I dial my husband, but repeated calls fail. The phone doesn’t even ring, I just get an error message.

Then I hear photographer Joshua McKerrow saying to someone, “Where am I going? I’m going to where the story is!”

He runs over to one of our marked photo cars and before he pulls out, he asks, “Is anyone coming with me?”

“I am!” I shout, jumping into the car.

I peel off my hoodie — the newsroom is wicked cold, but it’s warm and sunny outside — and fish through my purse and camera bag for a notebook.

No notebook!

Before I have a chance to improvise on the back of an envelope or something, Josh tosses a notebook my way.

And so begins a long and sometimes frantic afternoon and evening covering a most unusual event — a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia that rattled nerves up here in Maryland.

Before the day was through, I did a bunch of “man on the street” interviews, I climbed to the roof of the AL Goodie’s/WRNR Radio building in search of photos, filed copy with my iPhone and Bluetooth keyboard, managed not to get a parking ticket on my expired meter and got a crash course in earthquake science from three patient scientists.

But now the earthquake is behind us, and journalists have switch gears for the next big science/emergency story: Hurricane Irene.

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. In this case, that could literally be the truth.

Capital reporter Heather Rawlyk interviews people in Annapolis following a small earthquake, photo by multimedia journalist and environment reporter Pamela Wood.
Reporter extraordinaire Heather Rawlyk interviews two ladies who were rattled by the earthquake and decided to self medicate with ice cream.
Multimedia journalist and environment reporter Pamela Wood leans out a window to make a photograph.
Reporter Heather Rawlyk snapped this photo of me leaning out a third-floor window trying to get a shot of closed-off Main Street in Annapolis following the earthquake.


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