Friends School fourth-grader Mary Charlotte Mortimer is getting her ears pierced, and naturally, she wanted her American Girl doll to have its ears pierced, too.

Her cousins, twins Tessa and Cara Collins, also wanted their dolls' ears pierced.

On Tuesday, three girls, three dolls and two mothers, Amy Mortimer, of Roland Park, and her sister, Diane Collins, of Homeland, drove to the American Girl Place store in the Tysons Corner mall in northern Virginia for the piercings. For Mary Charlotte, it was a birthday celebration, too.

"We were just about wrapping it up, but not quite," Amy Mortimer said, when a rare, 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region, with its epicenter in Mineral, Va.


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At first, Mortimer thought it was a Metro train rumbling underneath the mall. But as she and other customers realized what was happening, everyone quickly left the store and the mall, leaving their dolls behind in the chaos.

"Lots of people left their stuff behind," Mortimer said. "There were little girls crying."

Luckily, said Mortimer, "My daughter grabbed her doll."

Then they faced a daunting trip back to Baltimore in heavy traffic. Even in the best of circumstances, traffic can be a nightmare in northern Virginia.

"It was just like rush hour started early," Mortimer said. They left at about 2:15 p.m., and got home at about 5 p.m. she said.

"It was definitely a long ride."

Safe and sound, but a little shaken, the Mortimers finally came home to Keswick Road, where Amy Mortimer's husband, Henry, and their other children, Anna, 16, and William, 13, also students at Friends, were waiting for them.

"They were happy to see us," said Mortimer, an admissions counselor at Friends.

The toll of the earthquake was more emotional than physical in north Baltimore. Northern District police commander Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper said she held the previous shift of officers back for several hours and sent them around the district, including to Guilford, Remington and Greenmount Avenue, to assess if there were any injuries, property damage or outbreaks of violence linked to the quake.

"We didn't find anything, no injuries and no damage," Tapp-Harper said.

The communities of Hampden, Mount Washington and Charles Village, as well as businesses such as the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center in Mount Washington, reported nothing awry.

Benn Ray, president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, said books and other items fell off shelves at his store, Atomic Books, but that was about it. Ray said that mostly, people in the business district stood outside in wonderment, saying, "What the hell?"

Union Memorial Hospital also dodged a bullet, with no surgeries in progress at the precise moment of the earthquake. The biggest impact at the hospital was on cell phone services and fax machines, spokeswoman Debra Schindler said.

"We really came out of it unscathed," Schindler said. "We're good to go, thankfully."

Mount Washingtonian Mac Nachlas said there were no reports of damage or injuries on the community's listserv, and that he was home at the time and saw no effect except for one.

"All the (neighborhood) dogs barked at once," he said.