Nothing like a little earthquake to put you right up close and personal with the things that matter most to you. The pictures on the wall are shaking and the woman at the front desk starts yelling, “You can’t take the elevators! Everybody out, take the stairs.” The women from the West Coast laugh and say, “Just stand under a door frame.” But we’re on the sixth floor. What good will a door frame do if the floor gives way? So I kick off my heels and slip into my comfortable shoes, grab my phone and my purse, and go.

My assistant isn’t in her office. There isn’t time to scour the place for her; I hope she knows to run for the stairs. And we file down, the intern making jokes behind me the whole way down, perhaps to lighten his own mood, or maybe because he finds the situation funny. I laugh, but my hands aren’t steady on the stair rails.

Outside the sun shines and the sky gleams very blue, and I think how funny it is to be confronted with our mortality on a normal Tuesday afternoon just after lunch. Everything is so normal. Businesspeople flood the city sidewalks, some laughing, others busy at their phones tweeting and texting, everyone saying, “I didn’t think D.C. had earthquakes.”

Fifteen minutes pass. Someone sounds an all clear, and we return to work, filing into elevators, laughing, moving forward, forgetting.

You just never know.


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