TV newscasts offer some relief after earthquake

By Tom Comi

East Coast people are as accustomed to earthquakes as Kim Kardashian is to modesty, so the rest of the country is going to have to cut us a little slack if you think we overreacted a tad yesterday. The ground hasn’t shaken this much in the nation’s capital since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to run the Marine Corps Marathon a few years ago.

Yesterday seemed like any typical Tuesday afternoon as I was working from my home office in Northern Virginia. That was until 1:51pm ET when I literally felt the earth shake under my feet. Because we don’t get earthquakes in these parts, I dismissed it as wind blowing outside. But after a few seconds, I knew I was experiencing something out of the ordinary.

After running outside and confirming with a neighbor that neither of us was crazy, I did what we all do when we’re in the middle of a crisis: I turned on my television. TV is a great comforter during times of distress, if not a much-needed distractor. I needed to know what happened, what would happen next, what I needed to be doing and how others were reacting. Should I be hiding under my desk or running around collecting water, flashlights, my kids’ favorite toys and my iPad?

I flipped to all of my local networks, then over to CNN and then back to my local networks. And the truth is nobody really knew anything. Broadcasters are usually the voice of reason after natural disasters, but they seemed just as freaked out as everybody else. Reporters in the D.C. area get to cover earthquakes about as often as they cover stories of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.

As is more often than not, there was some hysteria to the TV coverage. We saw buildings being evacuated, people running around aimlessly, traffic backed up for miles and interviews with many of the “survivors.” They talked about what it was like to be in an earthquake and how fortunate they felt to be alive. (It should be noted that there fortunately have been no reported deaths or life-threatening injuries to this point.)

As I channel surfed, I also checked out Twitter and Facebook, both of which were flooded with more first-hand accounts of “The Earthquake of 2011.” I started receiving phone calls, emails and texts to make sure me and my family were safe. Seriously, I haven’t been asked this many times if I was okay since my Redskins got spanked by the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII.

The more the people on the East Coast freaked out, the more our counterparts on the West Coast laughed at our expense. It’s not that they wished ill on us, but they tend to view quakes as more of a mild disturbance than a would-be catastrophe. I imagine people in New York would get a similar chuckle out of seeing folks in Los Angeles buried in a snow storm.

So here we are on the so-called “Day After,” and all seems to be back to normal. I’m sure the local and national networks will milk the story for all they can over the next several weeks, but for one day — a day when many of us experienced something we will most likely never experience again — it was nice to see TV serve a a real purpose.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got a few episodes of Hoarders to catch up on.


  1. Hey, I saw a couple of lounged chairs got knocked over on backyard lawns, Tom. Are you sure you’re OK? Mind you, here on the West Coast, we eat 5.8 quakes for breakfast.

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