You could tell pretty quickly who the Californians were.
They were the ones strolling calmly out of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington after the most powerful earthquake to strike the East Coast in 67 years.
The magnitude 5.8 quake shook buildings and rattled nerves from Maine to Georgia on Tuesday but caused no serious injuries.
There were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities.
Ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airport, there was broken water pipe at the Pentagon, and there were cracks at the National Cathedral.
Coming less than three weeks before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, many thought the rattling of buildings was caused by a terrorist attack.
"As it was happening, I thought it could be an earthquake and then I thought, "What it if it is a bomb?" said Jo Maney, press secretary for Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas.
Then she started getting text messages from people across a wide geographic area and realized it must be an earthquake.
For Maney, a Florida native, it was her first earthquake.
"It was a good day to have one," she said, noting that Congress was in recess and members of the Senate and House weren't in town. Many staff members had cleared out as well.
Maney works in the Capitol Building.
In the nearby Rayburn office building, staffers working for Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, knew instantly what it was, said Jim Specht, Lewis' spokesman.
All Lewis' staffers are Californians - except one who went to college in California.
After the shaking stopped, "we all went back to work and were amazed when 15 minutes later they ordered an evacuation of the building," said Specht, who covered the magnitude 7.3 Landers earthquake and the 6.5 Big Bear Lake earthquake in June 1992.
During the evacuation of the Rayburn building, California earthquake veterans
Many initially thought the trembler was a terrorist attack because the anniversary of Sept. 11 is on everyone's minds, Specht said.
"There's a lot of talk about whether they (terrorists) will try something new," Specht said.
The earthquake was centered 90 miles southwest of Washington in north Virginia.
About nine miles outside of Washington and nearer the epicenter, the third floor of the office building where Alan Lessig worked started to shake so much he became slightly dizzy.
Lessig lived in Redlands and was a newspaper photographer when the Landers and Big Bear earthquakes rattled the Southland. So he knew instantly he was experiencing another trembler at his Springfield, Va., workplace.
Quickly, he yelled "earthquake" to let fellow office workers at the Army Times know what was happening.
When mild shaking began, he thought that this wimpy geologic event was the worst the East Coast could throw at him.
But the trembling started rapidly gaining intensity, he said.
He moved to a door jamb, because he wasn't sure office buildings in Virginia were built to earthquake standards like in California.
As the shaking grew even stronger, he decided it was time to leave the building. But by the time he hit the top of the stairs, the event was over.
Some books had fallen off shelves in the offices, he said.
But it was nothing like California, he said. While on assignment to photograph damage from the Landers earthquake, Lessig was driving through Big Bear Lake when the magnitude 6.5 quake started.
"The car was shaking so badly I thought the wheels would fall off," he said.
Lessig said his wife, Robbyn, was at a movie theater near their north Virginia home with their two small children when the quake hit.
While many movie patrons scrambled to exit the theater, Lessig said his wife pulled the children close to her and stayed put.
The movie resumed in about 15 minutes and after it ended, the theater's management gave refunds for the inconvenience, he said.
Lessig said he got a text message from a friend in Cincinnati who told him the office building where he worked swayed quite a bit.
Thomas J. Jordan, a seismologist at USC and director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, said the reason an earthquake on the East Coast is felt over a very wide area has to do with its rock formation.
Along the eastern U.S., the rock formations deep inside the earth are relatively cool - and harder - when compared to California's rock beds at the same depth.
These cooler East Coast rocks "propagate seismic waves more efficiently," he said.
High temperatures make California's deep rock layers much softer, providing a natural shock absorber for the massive energy released in an earthquake, he said.
Another factor making East Coast quakes potentially worse is the construction of buildings. Many there are of old, unreinforced masonry construction, which can crumble.
But taller, newer buildings are built to withstand hurricanes and many of the engineering characteristics of those buildings would also enable them to withstand earthquakes, Jordan said.
With his car trapped in an underground garage that was temporarily closed after the earthquake, Specht walked around the Capitol area for part of Monday afternoon.
He saw light damage to several masonry buildings.
Some sidewalk areas underneath those buildings were blocked off as officials feared pieces might continue to fall, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.