One of the thrills of writing for a newspaper is the deadline.
Well, “thrill” would be one word for it.
Saturday night, the Kansas State-Oklahoma State football game in Stillwater – a game with many offensive fireworks and, thus, a very long game – ended at close to 10:30. Maybe a few minutes after.
My deadline was 11 and I hadn’t really written anything. So, give or take, I had 30 minutes.
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Let’s do this.
I’m writing along in a press box in which there is virtually no noise except the sound of keyboards. Everybody else is in the same boat as me, scurrying to get their stories or columns finished.
Then, suddenly, the place starts to shake, like a ship on a rolling sea. The press box begins to sway. None of us know what’s happening at first. I thought there were a bunch of people running on the floor above us, but that’s not what was happening.
We were experiencing an earthquake. Turns out, a 5.6 earthquake with an epicenter just to the east of Oklahoma City, which means not too far from Stillwater, which was turning out to be anything but still.
After a few seconds of tossing, we all figured out what was going on. There had been a slightly smaller earthquake in about the same location Friday night. Obviously, the earth was unsettled in this location.
Remember now, I’m on deadline. And there’s an earthquake going on, one that’s strong enough to make me feel dizzy.
Whether I was dizzy because of the way the press box was moving or because I thought it was going to be over, right there in Stillwater, I’m not sure.
I don’t think anyone in the press box – and there were probably 15 to 20 of us in the part of the box that I was working – actually feared for our lives. Did we? Nobody screamed. Nobody wailed. Nobody, as far as I know, relieved themselves.
But it was a good jolt, for sure. It lasted maybe 20 seconds. It seemed like it was never going to stop. I did some writing during those 20 seconds, actually, because the clock doesn’t stop, not even for an earthquake.
None of us in the press box could stop to say much about the earthquake because of our deadlines. I’m guessing that most of the people were like me and had never felt the shock of an earthquake before. It probably would have been an interesting topic of discussion if we had time to do so.
Instead, we all went about our work. And when the walls had stopped shaking, our focus returned to our computers and our thoughts about a wonderful football game.
I sent my column to the copy desk at 11:02, two minutes later than I was shooting for. My excuse? Earthquake.