Dorothy Armstrong – Anchorage


I was a Flight Attendant with The Flying Tiger Line, and we had just ‘dead headed’ (no passengers) into Anchorage to position for a flight the following day. Having arrived at the hotel shortly before, I had decided on a nap before going into the Red Ram restaurant for dinner. My roommate had asked to use my hair dryer, and I’d told her to help herself. As I was dozing off the shaking started. I thought it was my roommate, and that she was being very inconsiderate in shaking my bed like that. The hair dryer was on a partition that separated our beds, which were what I believe are called ‘day beds’. When the shaking didn’t stop, I sat up and looked around at my roommate, and saw the largest brown eyes I’ve ever seen…even since.

Being a California girl I recognized it was an earthquake, however being close to a SAC base another event did enter our minds! I made about 3 attempts to stand up, and was thrown back onto the bed, I finally gave up and I just shuffled the bed back against the wall each time it rolled into the room. I also moved as far away from the large plate glass window as I could get.

From this position I watched in amazement. The building was a U shape, and the section across from us was rolling in 2 – 3 foot waves. The window glass was also rolling in waves, but in an opposite direction, the street light in the intersection visible from our room was the type that is suspended in the middle of the intersection (not recognizable in this day), and it was spinning wildly. The amazement was in nothing was breaking! I heard the TV in the room above crash, but ours just teetered back and forth, not falling.

When the shaking stopped I immediately went to the door, as I had heard the screams of 2 other members of my crew, and saw them safely huddled against the building. Before leaving the room, I drained all the water in the lines in the bathroom into containers, as I knew there would not be any water for awhile.

The restaurant had been vacated, the bartender handed me a bag of money as he was running out. I insisted he open the safe for me to put it away, and he then ran off to check his home and family. We were the only ones left in the hotel, so we gathered in the restaurant, and decided we might as well see what there was to eat, we did well as food it was in abundance at this point. We also found the beer still cold!

We then walked downtown a short distance, and it was only then the full realization of the extent of the damage hit us. The hotel had appeared undamaged (a crack in the lobby fireplace was the only damage). Native hospital was nearby, and we went there to see if they needed any volunteers. They asked us to stand by for a time, as they were trying to obtain permission to admit nonnatives. We waited a while, and were finally told the other hospital was able to handle all the injuries, so we went back to our empty hotel.

The aftershocks were the unnerving part. Even when I returned to San Francisco it was several days before I trusted myself driving, as the ground was still moving under me, and I had to continually be reassured it wasn’t another earthquake.

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