When Tuesday’s earthquake struck the east coast, senior news-editorial major Marshall Doig thought it just was a train going by the POLITICO building he was visiting with seven other TCU journalism majors.
“It was just a little bit of a shake at first,” he said. “My first thought was, ‘Maybe it’s the metro train.’”
As the shaking got stronger, Doig and the other students realized that it was more than a passing rumble. Students and staff scrambled for the emergency exits.
None of the TCU students were hurt in the magnitude-5.8 earthquake, and no one else in the building appeared to have injuries, Doig said.
The students are part of an internship program that allows students from the Schieffer School to spend a semester interning in Washington D.C. for school credit. The group, led by Director of the Schieffer School of Journalism John Lumpkin, had been visiting the POLITICO headquarters in Rosslyn, Va.
As everyone in the building evacuated, Doig said rumors about what had happened started flying.
“Some people were saying things about airplanes and bombs, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Walking out of that building, you didn’t really know what to think until you could get outside and collect yourself.”
Doig immediately tweeted his suspicion that an earthquake, not a terrorist attack, was responsible. A friend texted him soon after, confirming that an earthquake had hit the area.
The group returned inside to continue their discussion with the POLITICO co-founders before taking cabs back to where they were staying, Doig said.
“Traffic is horrible everywhere you go,” he said. “Police have blocked streets off around federal buildings. They’re just locking everything in case anybody decides to do anything crazy.”
Senior broadcast journalism major Ashley Melnick tried to play it cool in the first few moments after the quake hit. Like Doig, she believed that a passing train was rocking the POLITICO building.
I didn’t want to overreact,” she said. “I didn’t want to act like that new Washington tourist.”
As the TCU students waited with the other employees who had been evacuated, Melnick said many people stood scanning the sky for clues about what had happened.
“About half were looking up, and the other half were looking down at their phones because they were tweeting and checking other news sources,” she said.
Melnick said she received multiple texts and calls from friends and family trying to make sure that she was unharmed. Several buildings were shut down as a precaution, she said.
“At the time, it didn’t seem like there was that much threat, but now we realize that it was a bigger deal than we imagined,” Melnick said.
Lumpkin said the students were in a round-table session with POLITICO co-founder Jim VandeHei when the earthquake struck.
“The whole room shook noticeably,” Lumpkin said. “Mostly, we were kind of stunned.”
The East Coast is not prone to earthquakes, so some people did not initially know what had happened, Lumpkin said. Students took to their iPhones and mobile devices to find out what had happened.
Lumpkin said he was glad that none of the students were hurt.
“It was an interesting experience, but fortunately it wasn’t a dangerous experience,” he said.
The quake would not disrupt the other scheduled events and visits during the internship program, Lumpkin said.
“We promised students a memorable experience in the Washington program,” he said. “We just didn’t know to what extent it would be memorable.”