Capitol Hill Staffers and Tourists React to Unlikely Earthquake

"Something out of a horror movie," described one congressional staffer after the earthquake hit. She was in her basement office of the Rayburn building when the walls started swaying, eventually knocking over her bookshelf that she fortunately caught mid-air, thankful she wasn't injured.

Jeff Sacco and Linda Sasenick of Golden, Colo. were in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center theater at the time of the quake and thought it was part of the orientation movie. They described the shaking as "intense," but "the movie went on." About two minutes later their tour group finally evacuated the building.

"We got on, pushed the button, it shook a little bit," said Mike Robbins, who was boarding a freight elevator in the Rayburn building. "We went down, shook a lot more, lights blinked, out of service sign came on in the elevator. I hit the call button, couldn't get anyone to answer." He said the door only opened after pushing the button of the floor the elevator was stuck on. Robbins and two others quickly jumped out and met U.S. Capitol Police, who escorted them out of the building.

"At first it sounded like thunder," said Todd Redlin. "I thought it was either an explosion or an earthquake." Redlin, who was working in the House TV studio at the time, said no alarms went off and he continued to work before being evacuated.

"It's sad we think more likely it's an explosion," said 10-year Washington resident and Southern California native Kevin Holmgren, who has experienced more than his fair share of quakes. He said he heard stuff on the sixth-floor of the Ford House office building crashing to the ground and wondered how long the shaking would last. He praised staffers who quickly evacuated the building, especially the children from the on-site child-care facility.

Craig Collins, who works in the House gym, described his first earthquake experience as "pretty cool," but later admitted he thought it was a bomb at first. He goes "it shook, we evacuated, and now we wait."