2011-08-26 / Top Stories

Rockaway Shakes And Rolls In 5.9 Earthquake

By Miriam Rosenberg and Daniel Solomon

It was a normal afternoon at The Wave.

The editors and reporters were working hard on stories and the sales staff was just completing a meeting. The graphic artists were all digesting their lunches or plugging away at designing advertising and editorial pages. Everything was as it always was on Tuesday afternoon, routine— then at 2 p.m. the floor started to shake.

For a few seconds, everybody ignored the rumbling, thinking it was some momentary movement of a chair or a truck. But it didn’t go away and we Wave reporters gave each other a quick look and realized it was an earthquake. Everyone filed out of the building in an orderly manner, seized by a sense of bewilderment and mild worry.

When the shaking stopped, everybody came back inside, and the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. A woman on Beach 65 Street said all the dishes fell out of her cabinets and the pictures came off the wall as she jumped on the bed for safety. A few people said that their homes shook and the earth growled.

So we turned on the television and tuned in to Fox News to hear what had happened. An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 had struck rural Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C. and those tremors were being felt up and down the Eastern seaboard. No one had died and there weren’t any serious injuries, just some moderate inconveniences.

In Waldbaums, on Beach Channel Drive near Beach 112 Street, one of our reporters changed roles quickly, from shopper to reporter, as she asked shoppers and employees for their reaction to the quake. Some said they didn’t feel anything, but others had their own stories about the quake.

“I felt the floor moving,” said one Waldbaum’s staffer. “In the back room [things] came off the shelves, and in the office the computer desks were shaking.”

Another Waldbaum’s worker said he was “upstairs working on the computer and everything started shaking up and down.” He estimated the quake lasted about 30 seconds.

Marissa, who works for the supermarket, but who was in her car when the ground shook, thought there was something wrong with her vehicle. A shopper said she was in the dog food aisle when things started swaying.

One deli worker, who was cutting meatloaf at the time of the quake, said she felt the shaking start and stop twice.

At the Beach 116 Street subway platform a worker involved in the renovation of the Rockaway subway system spoke to The Wave.

“We were working on the new roof of the train station [on Beach 98 Street] when everything started shaking,” he said. “People came out of their houses screaming.”

Cell service wasn’t working in parts of the city because the grid had been overloaded by phone calls.

In D.C., Capitol Hill and the Pentagon were evacuated.

City Hall was evacuated for a short time just before 2 p.m. Mayor Bloomberg issued a statement after the quake was confirmed.

“I’ve spoken with our Police and Fire Commissioners, and we’ve activated the Office of Emergency Management’s Situation Room and spoken to other city agencies, including the Department of Buildings,” said Bloomberg. “Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time. As ever, we urge New Yorkers to call 911 only in cases of actual emergencies.

“As we await more news from Virginia and elsewhere, our thoughts in New York are with those who were more directly affected by this natural disaster.”

Back at The Wave, all of the staff members eventually got in touch with their family members.

On this coast, though we do sit on a fault line far out to sea, most of the residents have never experienced an earthquake, since the last one hit the east coast during World War II.

We all felt a little rattled, to say the least, but then, we got back to work and the day continued.

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