I felt the earth move: Covering a historic natural disaster

Aug. 23, 2011. Five years ago, I was eating a snack in my car in the parking lot of the Charlottesville Harris Teeter when I felt a small rumble. I looked at the older woman in the parking spot across from me, and she appeared to have no reaction.

I looked across the street and saw the window panels on a building shake.

Did I just feel an earthquake? Nah. It’s Central Virginia. Psh.

I opened up Twitter and saw lots of locals questioning what just happened. And I shared my thoughts.

Then I got a text from a friend.

“Are you alive?”

That followed a text from my brother.

“Are you near that earthquake?”

Apparently, yes. Yes I was.

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From NC to NYC: Virginia Quake Shakes the East

I was sitting in my car after an Old Navy shopping trip and a Smoothie King stop. Then, my car started shaking.

I looked around, and no one seemed to react. I wasn’t sure what I had just felt, so my natural reaction — I tweeted. “Did I just feel an earthquake!?” My phone then exploded with texts from my brother and friends asking if I was OK or alive.

I rushed home, saw the CNN coverage and tried calling work. Couldn’t get through.

I swapped my shorts for jeans, put on my newly purchased Old Navy flip-flops and ran out the door to work. Within 30 seconds of stepping into the newsroom, I was sent to Mineral, Va., the epicenter of the earthquake.

What amazed me most about covering the earthquake was how eerily normal everything appeared. Sure, there was damage from the earthquake — two homes were destroyed, many others heavily damaged — but you had to look hard for the damage. Still, it was very easy to empathize with those who lost a lot, like the Brunson family I interviewed (in the video below).

Mineral is a small town between Charlottesville and Richmond. There aren’t many tall buildings, if any at all. That might not provide much comfort to those with damaged homes, worrying if insurance will cover the cost of repairs, but should something have happened closer to a metropolis like Richmond, there might have been more than the zero fatalities or serious injuries Central Virginia saw.

As far as news goes, it was exciting to cover a major event in our own backyard that had a national impact. But even one week after the quake, the cleanup continues.