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“You felt that too right?” – Post-Earthquake Airport Conversations

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Jefferson chapter.

This past weekend I got to take a much-needed break from school and travel to Charleston for my cousin’s wedding. A black-tie event in a beautiful city with all expenses paid? That was not an opportunity I was going to pass up on! But the excitement didn’t stop me from having a bad feeling leading up to the trip that was only spurred on by anxious energy. I’m not exactly a nervous flyer, but if driving’s an option, I prefer to have my feet on the ground.

3 things happened that morning that proved my premonition was not far off:

  1. There was an ad on the radio for hiring airplane engineers—you know, the people who you rely on to build a plane that won’t crash…
  2. Our flight got delayed. I know this happens often, but I’m not someone who likes to sit around waiting when my nerves can’t calm down.
  3. The entire Newark airport shook for 5 seconds.

Turns out that last one was more than just a bad omen. It wasn’t some crazy strong wind shaking the ceiling, or a plane that had hit the building (thankfully); no, it was a 4.8 magnitude earthquake that had traveled from Tewksbury, NJ across the tri-state area.

I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand, nay, one finger the number of times I’ve experienced an earthquake. Everyone’s surprise at the event (and later anger at the resulting constant delays) had been the catalyst for some friendly if not amusing interactions. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. In a funny stroke of fate, the woman who sat next to my mom while waiting at the gate lives in the same town as us. Had the ground not been shaking beneath our feet, we’d probably never would’ve crossed paths.
  2. A lady to my left had a sweet chat with her mom over the phone. The mother presumably had dementia, as the woman frequently had to remind her that she was going away on a trip. The woman ensured her mother that it was “safe for her to go downstairs to eat lunch.”
  3. Behind me a young Irishman living in Soho, a veterinarian maybe, was talking with a woman planning to visit her parents in South Beach. The woman’s daughter had surprised her with tickets to celebrate her elderly parents’ anniversary. The chatting pair bonded over their love of horses.
  4. After moving terminals for our third gate change, a couple of friends sat down joking about their misfortune when they learned their flight had been pushed 6 hours to 8:30 pm. I might’ve misheard her, but one of them said “I did not pay $30 to sit in the b*tch seat.” Maybe she’d said “B seat,” as in referring to the specific chair she was assigned to in her row, but either way I felt her pain (being a student is not cheap).
  5. While waiting in line to finally board our plane, a young girl traveling with her family claimed that her and the other kids “all loved lemon.” Quick to set the record straight, another girl responded, “that is a lie, I do not.”
  6. In by far my favorite exchange of the day, an adult man said to a young couple around my age “You guys are boyfriend and girlfriend? I thought you guys were brother and sister! That’s funny as hell!” He was undoubtedly from Jersey.
  7. Still listening to the same conversation, I learned that apparently the boy in the couple had a sister who was single, and the man had a son who was also single… I think you can guess what happened next. “Let me do God’s work here” is how the young male responded to the attempt at a love connection between strangers.

When you’re forced to sit around an airport for four hours and go through a countless number of changed terminals, the most interesting thing going on becomes the people around you. It’s a little weird to say that an earthquake brought people closer together, but that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes, it’s nice to just have a conversation with a total stranger—or more aptly put, listen to a total stranger’s conversation. And just to be clear, I do not consider what I did to be eavesdropping, more so just being observational of my surroundings.

Olivia is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson University studying Visual Communication Design with a concentration in Graphic Design. She is involved on campus as a chapter writer for HerCampus, the Sisterhood Chair for her sorority, and a student member of AIGA. While most of her life is consumed by everything design-related, Olivia enjoys spending her free time writing about the things she loves most (i.e. reality tv and life through her eyes). She hopes to pursue a career after college that involves both writing and design. Living in Philadelphia, Olivia loves making the most of her environment while trying new things. She enjoys going to concerts even if the music's bad, trying new restaurants that fall outside her comfort zone, and a third thing that’s supposed to be a joke.