10 years later, Nisqually quake still a haunting memory for some

10 years later, Nisqually quake still a haunting memory for some »Play Video
SEATTLE -- If you were here, you remember it.

Ten years ago Monday, the Nisqually earthquake rattled buildings and nerves, damaging the viaduct and cracking the Capitol's dome.

The images are as powerful as the memories.

It was 10:54 in the morning when the Earth moved. People huddled in doorways and alarms started ringing out at the air traffic control tower at Sea-Tac Airport.

"I'm getting goose bumps actually thinking about what it was like 10 years ago, because we were buried under rubble, equipment counters," said Debbie Hart, who supervised the tower that the Nisqually quake shift. "Everything in the tower started shaking jerking and shaking violently."

The towers' windows blew out, sending shards and huge chunks flying. Equipment, plaster and ceiling tiles came crashing down on air traffic controllers.

"There's eight poles that hold up the tower, and six sheered off," said Hart.

The 45-second quake seemed to go on forever.

"It felt like the whole floor was going to cave in. (I thought,) 'This is it. This is how I'm going to go,'" Hart said.

But controllers remember remaining calm despite the chaos.

"The first thing I did was pick up the phone to dial out and get help, but the phone was so smashed I couldn't even push the button," said air traffic controller Bud Pangan.

With headsets still plugged in, the crew alerted planes to stop landings and departures. Controllers grabbed portable radios, abandoned the trashed tower and within half an hour, they were directing traffic.

Their old tower now coordinates planes around gates. The new tower is built to withstand a 9.0-magnitude quake.

"So that's where I want to be if we have an earthquake. Now I want to be in the tower," said Pangan.

The air traffic controllers say they now have a big bag full of portable radios and contingency plans at the bottom of the stairwell in the event of another disaster.