Washington DC and Exodus

I understand that an earthquake rumbled up Washington DC today.  Let’s see… isn’t there going to be a hurricane later in the week?

Holy Moses!  When do the frogs and locusts arrive?  Will the reflecting pool on the Mall turn to blood?

Is someone standing outside the White House or the Capitol or the Supreme Court shouting “Let my people go!”?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Peggy R says:

    Obama won’t have his plan ready b/c of the earthquake. Or the earthquake is another reason the economy won’t get better. We’ll hear both in time.

  2. NonSumDignus says:

    I felt it here in Western Pennsylvania Father.

  3. Rose in NE says:

    LOL, Father! My nephew works in DC. He says it was a bit scary and that the phones aren’t working properly, but it was not a big deal. He’s a structural engineer, so I imagine he’s going to be a bit busy checking on bridges and so forth.

  4. Semper Idem says:

    I also felt it in the area north of Pittsburgh. My bed was shaking, and it woke me up. Friends of mine who live in Akron felt it.

  5. UncleBlobb says:

    But the LORD hardened Obama’s heart.

  6. benedetta says:

    Rock n roll in New York State.

  7. wanda says:

    Scary here in MD, Father. I’ve never, ever felt anything like that before. The whole house shook and shook hard, I really thought it would begin to crack and collapse. It lasted long enough for hubby and I to rush to an interior hallway and hit the deck. It lasted so long! Long enough for a fervent Hail Mary and an act of contrition. There doesn’t seem to be any widespread damage or injuries, thanks be to God.

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    A CNN report stated that pinnacles fell from the National Cathedral:
    Earthquake Rocks Virginia, DC, NYC.

  9. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I felt it in Columbus and reported it to the USGS. It rocked my chair a little. I thought at first I was lightheaded. Then California memories returned.

  10. Varda says:

    Oh, that was scary! I am in Falls Church VA about ten minutes from DC and it lasted at least 30 seconds and seemed like it came in two waves, the sescond worse than the first. When it didn’t stop I ran to my basement accompanied by three scared cats and just started to pray. We had one last year that was the first I had ever experienced and I found it scary but it was nothing compared with this. Some stuff fell off the book case and pictures are askew but nothing bad.

  11. We had a foreshock here at 1:50 or so, and a ton of people in the building felt it and went outside. But I didn’t feel it a bit. (I specialize in not feeling earthquakes unless I’m stretched out on the ground or floor. Also in sleeping through fire engine noise, SWAT teams, and gale-force windstorms. But I’ll wake up if I smell fire a long way away.)

    Re: MD earthquake, I believe that historically MD is known for having a lot of longitudinal roll to their earthquakes, which makes ’em last longer and feel stronger. It was in that earthquake history book by Simon Winchester.

  12. Here meaning “southwest Ohio”.

  13. Frances M says:

    It was far-reaching; I felt it in Weddington, N.C. – just south of Charlotte. I thought I was back in California!

  14. Peggy R says:

    I am compelled to put on the record that my snarky thoughts about O followed my understanding of reports that no one has been seriously injured or killed and that, aside from some minor damage, no buildings had been felled, etc.

    We did not feel this in Illinois, near St Louis. We used to be in DC and can imagine an overly cautious response by safety authorities and fed agencies. I can imagine the fear, though, as we have had quakes roll past like a train coming through the house.

    Stay safe folks!

  15. dirtycopper says:

    As I sat in my office [in a fortress like police department] watching things sway to and fro, it occurred to me that it has been way too long since my last confession. Suffice to say that I will be addressing that presently.

  16. Marcin says:

    Well, at the Children’s Hospital, which is a stone throw from the Mall, they kicked us out for half an hour or so, but no, they did not let us go…

  17. I’m between D.C. and Baltimore. Our whole house shook but nothing broke or even fell. In hindsight it was definitely an interesting experience. At the time, home by myself with a 5 year old, 3 year old, 2 year old and sleeping 5 month old and with a sprained calf muscle, I was a bit panicked.

    I’m not ranting about the end of the world, but I guess with the moral depravity of our country at the moment, it likewise shouldn’t be a surprise that the earth would reflect the state of human affairs.

    I still marvel that Fox News seemed to think its viewers would be concerned about the politicians to keep repeating that the capitol had been evacuated. I mean, I know if there was any catastrophic event, my first concern would be for the millionaire politicians!

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    Nothing here in ATL.
    Mother in law is in Richmond, just east of the epicenter (which was in Mineral VA acc. to the USGS).
    Have been trying to call but can’t get hold of her. (She’s probably playing golf and didn’t even notice, but I’ll still feel better when we touch base.)
    They originally reported it as a 5.8 but have upgraded to a 6.

  19. Mike says:

    I was reading Ratzinger’s “The Spirit of the Liturgy” (for the second time) by my pool when the tremors hit. Actually, I was on the third chapter, when he discusses the meaning of the Seat of Moses in the Synagogue when the earth shook…yes, the Lord speaks to us now…

  20. KAS says:

    There was also earthquake activity in SE Colorado! Amazing, two areas on the same day.

  21. JaneC says:

    Some of my neighbors here in North Carolina felt it, but I didn’t notice. We live near a military base and our house is frequently shaken by their artillery practice, plus I am a native Californian from a very seismically-active area. I’m used to ignoring a little window-rattling.

  22. Brian K says:

    We felt the VA earthquake here in Johnstown PA.

    We just took our oldest son off to start college on Friday at Christendom College in Front Royal VA. Their classrooms were evacuated due to the severe shaking down there today, but classes resumed shortly thereafter. Our son was in astronomy class when it hit. The professor was talking about the fact that the Jesuits invented most of the science behind modern seismology right when the earthquake hit.

  23. Gregorius says:

    Here in Emmitsburg, MD all the fire alarms went off and we had to evacuate into the streets. However, no buildings damaged. I got texts from my brother, on the eastern shore, my sister, outside of Baltimore, and my aunt, in Pittsburgh. News reports say it was felt as far away as Toronto. Needless to say I will be heading to confession the next time it is available.

  24. Cornelius says:

    I was in the Pentagon when it hit. thought it was an attack.

  25. momravet says:

    I’m about 81 miles east of DC and 100 miles NW of the epicenter. Didn’t know what it was at first, the noise was a strong rumble, like a semi driving right outside the window. The whole house shook and the couch that I was sitting on slid back and forth. My son was outside standing by his truck and the truck shifted around, too. However, it only lasted for a few seconds. We were fortunate. The last earthquake in Virginia that was this strong was a 5.8 in Pearisburg, Virginia in 1897 (think today’s event beat the record).

  26. momravet says:

    Sorry, 81 miles west of DC.

  27. Shadow says:

    Felt slightly in MA………

  28. bernadette says:

    Felt it here in Charleston, WV but I thought it was either the contractors doing something weird or I was having some kind of vertigo attack.

  29. Charivari Rob says:

    Felt by some here in Boston, but not by me. Report from family in central NJ – definitely noticed there!

  30. Monica says:

    Here in Springfield VA about 15 miles from the Pentagon. It’s my 48th birthday today and my elder son’s 10th birthday. Veddy, veddy interesting experience but no damage here.

  31. Mike says:

    Makes me feel as if this whole ball of wax could just go piffle. And, you know, one day, it will.

  32. eulogos says:

    Almost everyone in my office here in Endicott, NY felt it. A common description was that it felt as if someone had grabbed the back of our chair and was shaking it back and forth. I actually at first looked around to see if someone was there. Perhaps not very dramatic compared to what can happen, but the first earthquake I have ever felt any of. I am very glad to hear no one got hurt. I have children in Baltimore that I was a bit worried about.
    Susan Peterson

  33. inIpso says:

    The insurance agency I work for evacuated… but as soon as we got back the phones went off the hook with people wanting to add earthquake coverage to their home insurance policies… HAHA!

  34. DelRayVA says:

    I was at the “Shake IT Up” conference in the Washington, DC Convention Center. Ceiling tiles started falling on the crowd while the CIO of NASA was talking. We evacuated the building, and I just kept going all the way home at that point.

  35. ipadre says:

    “Can you hear me now!” God

  36. UncleBlobb says:

    I went to church to pray tonight, and saw that, from the large crucifix over the altar, Our Lord’s entire right arm had detached itself and fallen to the ground during the earthquake earlier in the day!

  37. MissOH says:

    I am in MD just north of DC and it was interesting. I was dropping off forms at our daughter’s Catholic school and at first I thought they were doing something to the roof. With the hurricane approaching this weekend and the various issues roiling around DC (and Annapolis) I wonder if these are wake up calls to remind us who is in charge.

  38. Patti Day says:

    Getting my hair cut in C’ville. Big rumble like a jet plane but it kept getting louder, actually saw the walls vibrating and felt it in the floor. Everyone in the salon ran into the parking lot. I had asked my husband earlier if we could go over to St. Thomas Aquinas to say the Chaplet. So glad I’d mentioned it before the quake, if you know what I mean. We had an aftershock about 8:00 PM. Kind of unnerving.

  39. DebbieInCT says:

    Felt it up here in the office in Stamford, CT. A very curious feeling of both swaying and vibrations, that after several seconds had everyone standing up in their cubicles wondering “Why is the building shaking?” By the time somebody answered “earthquake” it was all over.

  40. gambletrainman says:

    To some of you who ask (and know the answer before you ask), according to private revelations (which don’t necessarily HAVE to be believed), God will send a warning before disaster strikes. And, apparently, not too many people will listen, and continue “doing what coms naturally”. This quake was God whispering to us. How much longer before He takes a 2×4 to wake us up? The report originally said it was a 5.8, then it was upped to 6.0, then down to 5.9, and the last I heard was 5.8. I live 20 miles below Richmond, so, I got quite a dose. I have a cousin in NC who has seen quite a few of these in Japan while in the military, and she says it’s false to think you will be safe under a table. The same thing as them telling us when we were kids that we would be completely safe from an A-bomb attack by hiding under the desk. Think about it. What if you were to go under a table, or bed, or another object, and that object were to fall on top of you? I don’t know if I would trust a cellar. What if the building collapses and you are trapped? I can see if it were a tornado, then, yeah, the cellar would be safer, but an earthquake? Supposedly I could be safer being outside, but there is a 50-year-old dogwood tree in the back, and telephone and electric wires in the front. The utility pole is directly across the street from me, and wires leading to the sides of the houses on either side of me, as well as wires to one side of my house. All I can say is that I trust in God’s mercy, and ask Him to protect me.

  41. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I’m sorry to report that in Ashburn VA, we had damage. YUP. My velvet Elvis painting was all shook up.

  42. gambletrainman says:

    By the way, Irene looks as though she will be around the VaBeach area Saturday or Sunday with possible winds of up to 75/85MPH. (down from 125/135 before hitting landfall). If the earthquake loosens anything, the winds may easily take things out. I think we ALL need confession.

  43. pm125 says:

    Local news channel reported that at 6:30 AM, a 2.2 occured near Albany, NY.
    Two friends in Western Mass, in sandy Connecticut River valley towns, experienced the VA quake. One was at home watching porch rockers rocking, glasses clinking, and a pond that bubbled at the shore. The other was the secretary at church, whose chair was shaking. Two different towns.

  44. Joshua08 says:

    A 5.9 is a moderate quake. It was a surface one. It was felt as wide as it was, despite its comparatively small size, because of the Eastern part of the US having less falts and softer sediment. In California a 5.8, or even a 6.5, will not be felt as widely. The faults acts as barriers

    It is still not anything all that notable, other than the overeaction by many offices.

    Someone said their local news channel reported a 2.2? That must be a mistake. That is like reporting that Joe Schmoe stubbed his toe. A 2.2 is so tiny that it is not even measured the same. It is so small that the Moment Magnitude Scale that is used breaks down (Richter scale died in the 1970’s)

    What is interesting for a Californian transplanted east is that on the Modified Mercalli scale the same size earthquake gets a much larger magnitude in the East. Hence a 2.4 in California today rates a 1, the lowest on the Mercalli scale. But the 2.2 in NY got a 5 on the Mercalli scale, the same as the 5.3 today in Colarado. The 5.8 in VA got a 7 on the Mercalli, which is bizarre to me. The Mercalli scale tries to be more comprehensive. It takes in more than the raw energy released, and takes into account shaking time, how many people felt it, etc. It turns very subjective. The same size earthquake in California would probably get a 5 or a 6 depending on where it hit.

    It is amazing how the buildings (far weaker in the East for this) soil and merely experience of people factors into the Mercalli scale and the exaggerated attention this earthquake gets

  45. s i says:

    I can see it now – the MSM headlines tomorrow (per another blog post):

    Massive Quake Hits Washington DC. It’s Bush’s Fault

    Obama Saves DC from Certain Destruction.

    Obama “Not much damage, but it would have been MUCH worse if I wasn’t president.”


  46. iudicame says:

    I live in northern Virginia and was in the kitchen when it hit. The dog started howling immediately. The initial effect was the violent rattling of the basement sliding door – I thought this was a home invasion and headed upstairs to fetch my pistol. But, it continued to roll – now every window shaking and the floors and walls, a LOUD rumbling sound – it felt like someone was jack-hammering the adjacent street but 20 times more violent. In the 20 seconds of trembling I was baffled – What the hell… I’ve been in a few really scary situations before and this quake frightened me. I put credence in the notion that God warns us in manners similar to this event.



  47. Lori Pieper says:

    Here in the Bronx, I was in bed resting my injured foot and working on my laptop. I felt my sixth-floor apartment bedroom swaying gently back and forth – a little like “rock-a-bye baby in the treetop.” I got up, injured foot or no injured foot, to put on my shoes and go downstairs and outside, but by the time I was up, it was over. I didn’t even here anyone else on our floor come out of their doors.

    But I could sure tell you some things about the other earthquake I was in; the Big One — the Good Friday earthquake in 1964 in Anchorage, Alaska. I was seven years old and due to make my First Communion the next day. My Dad was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force base, but we were living off base. We were in our car and driving to Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage for the Good Friday services.

    I remember my head suddenly rising almost to the roof of the car and falling back to my seat a few times. My Dad thought there was something wrong with the car, but had to keep going until he could find a place to turn off the road. I was talking to my Mom on the phone tonight about today’s little earthquake, and she remembered quite a few other things about those moments: the plate glass window of the JC Penney building imploding as we drove by and people running everywhere in fright. We immediately had to drive back home to see if my little brothers were all right – a neighbor was babysitting them. My Dad had great difficulty driving around the holes in the road. We had no electricity for several days and only the battery-operated radio to depend on for news. The sewage system was damaged and they had to bring drinking water around in a truck. I remembered how worried I was whether the Easter Bunny could still make it to our house (he did). Yes, I was probably more worried about that then I was about missing my First Communion – which I finally made in May.

    I’m just as happy that the second earthquake of my life was no big deal!

  48. PostCatholic says:

    Damaged buildings include the National Cathedral and the Mormon Temple here in DC, but not the White House or Capitol or Supreme Court. So if God is unhappy with the government, she’s shaking the wrong houses.

  49. Ellen says:

    We didn’t feel anything in Kentucky and we are right near one of the Big Ones (New Madrid Fault). If and when it slips, then goodbye Memphis, Saint Louis, Paducah and a bunch of other river towns.

  50. AnAmericanMother says:

    Now I’m hearing from my co-workers that they felt it in downtown Atlanta.
    Also some reports from friends in Gainesville (GA) that they felt it there.
    I was working from home, and we live right next to a RR track, so I didn’t notice a thing. I probably thought it was just a freight train shaking the house (which it does from time to time, if the train hits the resonant frequency of the ground. We’re on sand and clay pretty close to the river – if the Big One hits here we’ll probably just slide right in.)
    Oh, well, I missed all the excitement.
    My mother in law is fine, although she was certainly alarmed. The thing that she and my niece in Richmond both reported was the noise – apparently a lot of audible rumbling in addition to the shaking. But they were quite close to the epicenter – she lives well west of Richmond, almost to Goochland, so they were only about 40 miles away. No damage to her house, though.

  51. DisturbedMary says:

    I didn’t feel it. I was on a NYC bus which simulates 5.9 jolts as a usual part of the ride.

    I did wonder whether there would be a tsunami warning on Martha’s Vineyard. : )

  52. PaterAugustinus says:

    I felt it just south of Columbus, Ohio. Not strong enough to produce any visible or audible shaking and jostling, but I certainly felt it, sitting in my chair.

    @PostCatholic: I often hear people remark on the supposed “irony” of God shaking up the religious buildings and areas of predominantly religious people first, while skipping over Bourbon Street, the Government buildings, etc. The conclusion these people draw, is that IF the calamities are a message, they only reveal that the Progressivists must be on the right track, and that God is mad at right-wingers.

    In reality, we know why this is, from God Himself: “For the time is now come to begin the judgment, starting with the household of God. And if first at us, what shall be the end of them that believe not the Gospel of God?” (1st Peter 4:17)

    Because those called by the name of Christ are supposed to take the lead in their society, and because the wickedness of godless ideologies and moral bankruptcy only succeeds when the people of God have failed in their duties, the judgment begins with us, and we must take the first share of the blame. We must be the first to hear God and respond to the sound of His voice. Therefore, I am never surprised when I hear that the Churches and the God-fearing folk in the poor and rural areas are the first hit. That’s what we signed up for.

    I hope Christian folk will start taking the hint, and will realize that our present guilt involves more than just our personal lives and private decisions. To the extent that we are not being proactive in helping the culture around us – making very principled choices about the culture and politics we support (even in such small activities as what television we watch or which judges are elected) – we have very public sins, for which to give account.

    And, by the way, also @PostCatholic: God Himself has told us that He is the Father, from whom all Fatherhood derives its name. Now, it may be accurate in the “apophatic” sense (i.e., in the “via negativa” of theology) to say that God is beyond gender. In human terms, He is. But, a typical mistake of rather feckless people, is to assume that just because some fine exception to a norm may exist, it therefore invalidates the norm. The fact is, that God may be beyond human concepts of gender, but yet the human concepts of gender are a shadow of spiritual realities. It’s not so much that God isn’t masculine, as that the masculine sex does not exhaust or fully reveal what God is. Masculinity represents the active force, which sows outside of itself and acts with initiative. It corresponds to the Divinity. Femininity represents the passive force, which is fecund and cultivates the seed, rearing it up in the name of the active principle. It corresponds to creation, and every dependent creature, therefore, is feminine in a sense… including men. But, to the extent that men manifest this masculine principle (which is why fatherhood – physical and spiritual – is restricted to their gender), their masculinity is a shadow of Divinity. Hence, when describing God, there is one gender, which is eminently suitable to describing Him: the Masculine. God may not be a man, but He is certainly the archetype of all masculinity, of which manhood is a shadow.

    It’s really not that difficult a concept: even Pagans and Taoists (and others) were happy to refer to “Father Sky” or the “Heavenly Father,” as contrasted with “Mother Earth.” Ouranos is masculine, Gaia is feminine. So, while it may seem cute and clever to snub “Judaeo-Christian Tradition” in this way, really this kind of puerile thinking amounts to a willful ignorance of perennial religious principles, which have long been obvious to all people with two spiritual thoughts to rub together.

  53. From good ol’ St. Beatus of Liebana’s Commentary, which probably got it from somewhere else:

    “And there were voices and thunders and lightnings, and an earthquake.” [Rev. 8:5]

    “Voices and thunders and lightnings” are the preaching of the Church, but the persecutions that the Church suffers generally are the “earthquake”, because she always suffers tribulation where she preaches.

  54. MyBrokenFiat says:

    PaterAugustinus – wow.

    You, my good sir, deserve not just one cookie for your brilliance, but a heaping box of Oreos, double stuffed, and a gallon of milk… chocolate or strawberry if you so desire.

    I love that description! Thank you.

  55. Catholictothecore says:

    We in Ontario, Canada, just outside of Toronto, felt the effects of the Earthquake in Virginia yesterday, a Tornado today, in fact its pouring cats and dogs as I’m writing this, and did you say Hurricane Irene later this week? Any more natural disasters left to talk about? Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.

  56. Lori Pieper says:

    PaterAugustinus, your rebuke of PostCatholic for using “she” for God ais a little misplaced. I’m sure you were angered beause he was being flippant (as he so often is), but there are things in your reply, historically as well as biblically, that an orthodox Catholic and a good historian of religion can take issue with.

    First, your contrast between the Heavenly Father God and the Earth goddess as principles recognized even by pagans is way too sweeping. It is true that the earth is a goddess (Gaia), but not all goddesses are earth goddesses. You have forgotten that ancient religions had many sky goddesses: the Greeks had Hera, the Queen of heaven and goddess of the air, Selene, the moon goddess, Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and divine messenger of the gods. The Egyptians had Nut, goddess of the sky, and there are many others. Many religions have both a sky god and sky goddess. Fecundity and birth does often play a role in the lives of goddesses, but for some, like Diana, the virgin huntress, with her bow and arrows, it does not. The mythological imagination can very readily see active feminine principles.

    Second, you are definitely right in saying that the masculine sex does not exhaust who God is. Which is why the Old Testament does not hesitate to employ language that speaks of a feminine /maternal aspect of God, especially in Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is 49:15); “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Is. 66:13). The Hebrew word most often used for God’s compassionate love is rahamin or “womb-love.”

    Third: Our three latest Popes have actually spoken a great deal about the theme of the maternal nature of God. I have written about this here:


    I have explored John Paul I and am planning to publish my first post on John Paul II in a day or two. I think everyone should study what these Holy Fathers have to say.

  57. PostCatholic says:

    PaterAugustinus: Thanks for your thoughtful message. I personally do not believe in a god of either gender, and certainly not in one that codes its message in plate tectonics and natural disasters instead of language. I didn’t mean to insult yours particularly, I more or less typed that without a lot of thought given to the gender of a deity.

    Your reply was helpful to me. I’ve often wondered how sophisticated and intelligent people reconcile large-scale natural disasters with their faith. Thank you for the time you took explaining your beliefs to me.

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