Yesterday around 4 o’clock, whenever that front of storms blew through, we had an interesting experience in our downtown building. D Magazine occupies the top two floors of St. Paul Place, the 21st and 22nd. The editorial desks sit on what was yesterday’s leeward side of the building, on 21. We turned off the lights so that we could more easily see into the darkness outside. Rain was swirling, blowing sideways. Zac and I walked over to the art department, on the windward side of the building. Rain hit the windows so hard that it sounded like gravel.
Then I started to feel what I thought was vertigo. It was like the gyroscope in my head was malfunctioning, not badly enough to make me lose my balance. But it was disturbing. That’s when I saw the hanging lights swinging like we were on a cruise ship, and I realized that the entire building was swaying.
“I’m getting the hell out of here,” I told Zac and quickly headed to gather my stuff.
Did I overreact? Yup. But two forces were at work on me: one, I am a pansy who is afraid of heights. Two, I’d recently read a story about how even moderately rough seas can cause something called parametric rolling in huge container ships, sending cargo overboard and even sometimes sinking the boats. In my mildly panicked state, I realized that the building was probably designed to sway in high winds, but what if an unusually steady, strong wind set up a sway frequency that the engineers hadn’t planned for? What if the whole effing building collapsed?
Like I said. Total pansy. The tornado warning was issued. I wound up in the elevator with our CFO, whose office is up on 22. “Did you feel the swaying?” I asked him. He looked at me like I was child who needed assurance that thunder wouldn’t kill him. “Yeah,” he said. “It was just a little swaying.” In my defense, that is exactly the sort of thing that someone would say — right before a building collapses!
Anyway, we all survived. St. Paul Place is still standing. But this makes me wonder what it was like in the other buildings downtown yesterday. I mean, we’re only 22 stories. What was in like in the Bank of America tower, some of those places with some real height?