Fifteen years ago today, the Nisqually Earthquake shook the Puget Sound region from Olympia to Everett. It was felt as far as Spokane.
The 6.8-magnitude earthquake caused roughly $2 billion in damages, injured about 400 people and was blamed for one fatal heart attack.
The News Tribune recently asked people where they were Feb. 28, 2001. This is one woman’s recollection.
Linda Aime was living in Olympia at the time. She was a single mother of four boys and was attending South Puget Sound Community College.
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Her oldest son hurt his foot playing soccer so she left class to take him to the pediatrician’s office at Providence St. Peter’s Hospital.
That’s when the earthquake struck.
“I heard what sounded like a freight train heading for the building, then suddenly everything began to shake. People were screaming, children were crying. I grabbed my son and we huddled next to the front desk,” Aime recalled this week. “I remember looking over at a huge aquarium that was in the office and the water was splashing out of it, rolling back and forth.”
“It seemed as if the earthquake lasted forever and suddenly it stopped. Everyone was quite shaken, no pun intended. Kids were crying, some parents were crying and what surprised me most was how many of the staff of the pediatrician’s office were crying, screaming or ineffective.”
Right away, everyone in the office realized they need to leave the building, since they were on the second floor.
“We gathered everyone together after we made sure no one was hurt and began walking down the stairs to the first floor. It was strangely quiet and as we moved down the stairs I noticed large cracks in the walls of the building,” she said. “We made it outside and stood in the parking lot, mostly stunned.”
Then Aime realized her son was not going to be able to see a doctor and she needed to check on her other children, who were at Olympia Christian School.
“By the time I got there, all the children were outside of the school, most without coats and sitting on the ground on garbage bags,” she said. “I’ve never been so happy to see my kids and so relieved that no one had been injured.”
A couple of parents with motor homes arrived and were able to get the younger kids out of the cold.
Aime, the school principal and a teacher went inside the school to gather the children’s coats.
Her cellphone worked just long enough to call her mother, who lived out of state, to assure her she and the children were OK.
After seeing that parents were beginning to arrive, Aime gathered her kids together and returned home.
Only a few household items had fallen onto the floor and nothing was broken.
“I’ll never forget that day and where I was,” she said.