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  • Writer's picturetony

Cyber Shock from a non-Cyber Shaking

Sharing something that I posted on my internal NSA blog in 2011.


Shock, Rattle, and Roll Out of DC

2011.09.28 - 02:37 pm

This is embarrassingly late, but here's my Earthquake of 2011 story. On August 23rd, I was scheduled to speak on a lunchtime panel at the Washington Convention Center. Seated on a raised stage in the main ballroom, I waited for my turn as the third of three senior government speakers. We were to answer a canned question from the Moderator before the audience Q&A.

The second panelist was finishing her answer, and I was thinking of some clever way to start mine. Just then the stage started shaking very strongly. My first thought: "wow, delivery trucks must be driving right next to the building.". Next, metal trim rings from the overhead light fixtures started dropping onto tables and aisles. You have never seen a ballroom clear out so quickly. Within 2-3 minutes, the word twittered through the tweet-o-sphere that this was an earthquake.

Modest confusion followed until Security cleared the building, and I joined countless other DCers wandering aimlessly through downtown. Phone service was very spotty, SMS was sometimes usable. I finally gave up and walked to the next building, where my car was parked in the underground garage.

Bad news—someone had smelled gas, so the building was cleared, and security people were cutting off all entrances to the garage—except one. I managed to get my car out of the garage and bumbled into politely insane DC traffic. About 20% of the stop lights had gone dark or blinking, and every government office in DC closed at the same moment.

And so I started a 4-hour slow-crawl commute back to Carroll County, MD.

And yes, the name of the computer Conference was "ShakeIT Up!" I should have known. In my next speaking engagement downtown, I managed to catch the remnants of one of the hurricanes or tropical storms. This led to a 3-hour commute to DC - when Canal Road became one for a stretch. Three hours from home to the Commerce Building, but I walked in with about 90 seconds to spare.

Friendly advice: when you see me on the Agenda as a speaker, check the weather forecast. I am not offended if you decide just to stay home.



Here's a bit of extra color commentary: The main ballroom in the DC Convention Center had a very high ceiling, and those trim rings dropping onto the tables and floor sounded like a shot! When I say that the room cleared quickly, I am not exaggerating. I saved one of the trim rings as an office souvenir - I have no idea why - but it's been lost to history and office moves.


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