It was when I was living in San Francisco in the 1980s. There was always a danger of course, but I never really thought about it.
Until I was sitting at the bar of Ireland's 32 on Geary Street one Friday afternoon when suddenly the glasses began rattling and the floor began shaking.
You never expect the ground to give way underneath you and it was a petrifying moment.
I did exactly the wrong thing.
Instead of hiding under a table or standing in a door jamb I bolted outside into the street, which of course exposed me to falling wires, bricks and anything else that might come down.
The second time I was up a ladder painting a house when the quake hit.
I had an horrific hangover from the night before and felt the ladder shift.
I was sure the hangover was much worse than I had thought and I climbed down and went home.
Only when I got back there did I realize it has d been a fairly significant earthquake.
I thought of those two occasions today as I watched the awful scenes from Japan.
My earthquakes were 5.8 and 6.2 on the Richter Scale, I can only imagine what a magnitude 9 must feel like.
May they all come home safely, the missing and the lost.