When I wrote to Norma Jean Hissong to get her ok to reprint the Nisqually memory she sent to the Olympian, I wound up learning that she’d made some journal entries on the 28th of February, 2001, and then again on March 4. They all relate to the quake somehow, although the first entry mainly just sets the scene. So, here are Norma’s entries, with a bonus picture of Mt. Rainier:
Journal entry 8:00 a.m., February 28, 2001
…I watched the most unusual sunrise this morning… The mountain was clearly visible the whole time. The sky was pink and blue. There was a straight pink line across the sky. Then the colors moved from around the mountain to the north and west. Pretty soon the sky surrounding the Capitol was all pink and blue. The Olympics were out – just awesome. The colors faded by the mountain. I thought the show was over, so took off my glasses to sit back and relax.
I’d been thinking about how, someday, the trees will obscure my view and reminded myself that worrying about what may happen someday shouldn’t ruin my enjoyment of what is now.
I thought about what an awesome sight it would be to see the mountain blow, then realized it would darken everything and I probably wouldn’t see much at all. It would make a big mess, dumping ash everywhere. It would kill people and knock off the top of the mountain. Decided I could live without that thrill.
Then, as I sat there, glasses off, I saw something rising from the top of the mountain. I thought, “How weird. I never saw anything like that before. Without my glasses on I can see the mountain’s aura, but why haven’t I ever seen it before?”
I put my glasses on and there really was a shadow reaching up from the mountain. I wondered if it could be my imagination. I called Rita. She was looking and wondering the same things.
She said, “I don’t think it would come out in a picture.”
I grabbed my camera and snapped, as Rita held on. As soon as I put my camera down a diamond glow appeared around the mountain as an outline. A moment later the sun popped up and shown so brightly I had to pull my drapes. The predominant color in the picture is yellow, not the pinks and blues I usually photograph, but the shadow shows up. It looks as if the mountain moved, throwing the picture out of focus (just the mountain though, not the trees, etc.) It didn’t capture the diamond outline and doesn’t do justice to what I witnessed, but communicates a hint. I’m glad Rita saw it too…
February 28, 2001 – 10:00 p.m.
Well, I’m so glad I took that picture this morning. Perhaps I was seeing the mountain move. Hours later we had a 6.8 magnitude earthquake…I’m in my chair, in my apartment, amidst lots of debris. I didn’t get my bath. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. After I took the picture and emailed it to my family I ate breakfast then got to work on my jigsaw puzzle, which is now full of dirt. Not really, there’s dirt from my prayer plant on one of the trays.
My TV fell off the stand but didn’t break. Lots of people’s TVs flew off shelves. My refrigerator doors flew open and things flew out – Italian dressing all over the floor.
I’d put down my puzzle, gone into my office to send another email – about what I have no idea. Suddenly there was a terrible rumble and the whole building was shaking violently. I froze, just like when I had my fire. I didn’t even move back from my windows, just stood there, maybe sat there, while things flew off shelves.
My office fared the best, my bedroom the worst. One of the mirrors broke. The center piece fell, all the plants, the bookcase tipped over and the glass in the pictures broke .…
I got dressed, brushed my teeth, and ran downstairs. When I went outside. Leela was driving by, yelling that I needed to get water shut off at the Elks, there were big leaks. I caught a ride downtown with her, could have walked faster there was so much traffic.
Water was pouring from the ceiling above the 5th floor. I figured it was from the water heaters – not the sprinklers, as it appeared. I didn’t know what to do, eventually gave up and went to Capital View. Things looked pretty good there. I still didn’t know what to do. Came home. Checked out situation here. No water. Electricity back on. Lots of damage, apparently superficial. After awhile I decided to head back downtown. Perhaps the first time I went down, but I’m not sure, I got some guy from the Ramada to go up over the 5th floor in front to turn off the water. (When he came down he was drenched.) It was the first time because when I went to Capital View Mary was there and I told her water was off.
I didn’t know what to do about water pouring into Beth’s apartment. I was talking to woman from City of Olympia when I spotted Ben. I had him lug the longest ladder up to the 5th floor, climb to the top of it, through the ceiling of 505, over the apartment to turn off the water. He was successful. (He was also soaked.) Every once in awhile I’d just start crying. I’ve never been so scared in my life…
They’re saying, “This is, by no means, the Big One.” I don’t ever want to experience anything like that again. They’re saying this was 6.8 – moderate. “Big One” could be 8.5. Started 30 miles down, dissipated on its way up. Rubble. A wake up call!…
I had the strangest sensations this morning. I couldn’t stop looking at the mountain. — “Heaviest shaking 98501 Zip Code.” That’s me! – My senses were sharp. I was zeroing in on everything around me.
12:30 Sunday March 4, 2001
I didn’t have time to write any pages March 1. Things have been extremely stressful but should begin to settle down some.
When I finally felt settled enough to sleep the night of the quake, about 1:00 I think, I went back in my office to check my email and we had an aftershock. Needless to say, no sleep that night.
I needed to get in Service Master to handle the water clean up; the electrician to get the electricity turned back on; elevator inspector; alarm people to go through and replace water damaged alarms, reset everything; sprinkler people to make sure system had not been compromised: structural engineer, civil engineer, and masonry contractor to assess the damage and write a letter to the city; plumber to reconnect the water heaters that had “gone square dancing and everyone took a step to the left.” At the same time, I had to respond to calls from business owners and tenants from 45 apartments, all demanding answers I didn’t have.
With no elevators in operation it was exhausting to run up and down five flights of stairs at the Elks and six flights at my home. My apartment was also without heat and hot water for one day. I was so relieved when I called Rita and found out everything was back to normal here. I didn’t think I could walk up one more flight of stairs.
I met with the Building Official and the Civil Engineer on Friday, was told the building would be green tagged as soon as the engineer’s letter was taken to the office. When no green tag appeared I got back on the phone. The CBO never responded so I called the Housing Program Specialist and reminded her I had 45 households waiting to go back home. She told me things had slowed down at the city. The CBO had a cold and must have collapsed at home. She took my paperwork to his house and finally got the green tags yesterday afternoon. After that I was able to allow most of my tenants to go back in.
Seventeen apartments were water damaged. I’ve got crews in to dry them out and deal with the carpet, etc. I’ve got two apartments and a dress shop that are still yellow tagged, till structural damage up the front southeast corner is repaired. I’ve got a counselor’s office red tagged till a structural column that holds up her roof can be repaired. Two businesses that were red tagged are now ok to go. Two businesses that were yellow tagged are ok to go. My other 14 businesses never had to evacuate. The Ramada Hotel, next door, was changed from a red tag to a yellow tag, so most of the fencing on the Capitol Way side of the block has been removed.