Friday, March 11, 2011

Memories of My Childhood Revisited...

Every time I hear or read about an earthquake and/or tsunami I am mentally and emotionally transported back in time March 27, my beloved Anchorage, Alaska...Elmendorf A.F.B.

It was Good Friday. I was 11 years old and I really wanted a new Easter coat. My Father said he would take me downtown to J.C. Penney's and I was thrilled! My Mother asked that we wait and eat dinner first. I was helping Mother prepare our dinner when I felt the first 2 small tremors. My 3 bothers, Mother, Father and I looked at each other and laughed. Being from Texas we thought tremors were funny! Then a pause of perhaps a second or two...

I remember the sound like a B-52 engine or a if it were rolling towards our home...then violent shaking. I froze with my fingers clinched on the kitchen counter...hanging on for dear life. I heard my parents voices yelling for everyone to go Father grabbed me and herded me outside. I couldn't walk straight or get my balance...everything was moving. The kitchen cabinet doors were opening and closing with all the contents crashing to the floor as we exited our home. We sat down on the back steps of our home and I remember watching the cars in the parking area rolling back and forth. I looked to the telephone poles with the wires moving in a wave like motion. The sound continued. Neighbors looked at each other in total disbelief. When the earthquake stopped there was total quiet. Not a sound. It was a quiet beyond description. I was struck by how warm it was that day as I looked up at the sun shining in a crystal blue sky and the streets were clear of all ice and snow...all the while thinking how did this happen?

My Father went to get our battery operated "transistor" radio. He was furious. He thought my brother has used it listening to music and worn down the batteries. All he could get was static. Someone had a ham radio...our link to the world...that's when we began to find out how serious this situation was. No phones, no television, catastrophic damages through out Alaska...a new sense of seriousness took over.

My Father dressed in his uniform and told us that he had to report to his office. He kissed us goodbye and we opened our home to other military Mothers and children. We all tried to sleep on our living room floor while we listened to the ham radio operators reading messages from friends and family across Alaska...all the while hearing the all too familiar rumblings of aftershocks coming upon us. The Mothers collectively kept a sense of humor and it immediately calmed all of us children. We were constantly reassured that our Fathers would be home soon and the Air Force would take care of us. We so firmly believed these statements that we never questioned their validity and for good reason...Father did return home the next morning.

The news he shared with us was defined with his ever present sense of "we can do what needs to be done and we will be fine". Again we never doubted any of these statements.

As more information came to us we realized the enormity of this earthquake. Here are some statistics about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake.

Railroad tracks buckled.

Highways cracked.

Alaskan soil is so saturated with moisture due to the climate and snow that during the earthquake it turned into a "jello like" viscosity lending to further destruction.

Tsunamis are real...devastatingly real.

We learned concrete structures were totally unforgiving in an earthquake and there are reminders.

Downtown Anchorage...after the quake.

The J.C. Penny store my Father and I were supposed to be in...had we not waited to eat dinner...the girls department collapsed...we could have been seriously injured or worse.

Easter Sunday came and we went to church as always but this time there was a difference. Back in 1964 church attire meant your BEST clothes. This Easter Sunday it was different...the services were held outdoors due to the compromised structural integrity of the church. The military personnel were in full uniform as always...the other parishioners were in every type of clothing...but the demeanor of each worshiper was powerful that to this day...I remember for the first time in my young life the church service didn't seem too long...the sermon had real meaning for me...and I wanted to stay at our church with it's cracked walls and Thank God for protecting all of us.

A wonderful blogger who lives in Alaska NOW is Retired in Alaska you can go here to see this beautiful state as it is today. It is a place of wonder and it's pristine beauty holds true even today. I love this state, it captured my heart as a child and I still hold it dear today!

My prayers for everyone impacted by earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami victims and survivors from Japan to Hawaii to the continental United States...May God bless.


  1. unbelievable. you told the story so well that i felt
    i had been there. we live in tornado alley, but
    earthquakes seem a million times more terrifying!

    have a blessed day!

  2. Sandy,
    I'm so glad you emailed me. Love your blog. I'll be keeping up with you.

  3. what a vivid recollection of such a scary event... and to think that you stayed home is even more chilling... i was in hi on vacation when that quake happened, we had to evacuate the hawaiian hilton and head for the pali in the middle of the night, we slept in our rental car. the japanese quake has me, a native californian, shaking in my boots, its just to horrendous to absorb, and to think you lived thru the same size quake. my prayers to japan...

  4. Sandy, I for one have a really, really hard time fully understanding the normal term... "homeless"...much less TRULY in what so many of those poor people of Japan are enduring right now.

    The experience that your family encountered in Alaska many years ago..would have been been embedded in my mind as well. SO glad you were not in that JC Penny store that evening.
    You have been thru a LOT in your life gal.

    When going to bed each night since the Quake and Tsunamis in Japan...we are even MORE THAN grateful and prayerful.


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