Patrick Sanford – Anchorage

I was 8 &1/2 when the Good Friday earthquake hit, and my family was living in Anchorage, on Columbine Street, walking distance to Airport Heights Elementary School. My mom, my two older brothers & I were at home. My Dad was on his way home from his office at Elmendorf AFB. When the quake hit, my brother & I were playing cards, Mom was cooking a pot of chili, and my oldest brother was sitting on the couch, watching TV. We were used to feeling tremors, but when this hit, we knew it was different right away. The cards went flying, the pot of chili flew across the kitchen, and Mom, one brother & I went to stand in the front doorway. Oldest brother sat on the couch, professing he was not afraid, though completely ashen. Looking out the front door I remember seeing our little dog, Gyp, running up & down the hills & valleys of our normally flat street. It seemed to go on forever.

Dad, on his way home in the car when the quake hit, initially thought there was something wrong with his car, so he stopped to check it out. When he got out he saw all the power poles whipping back & forth and realized what was happening. Across the road, a troop truck had pulled over to the side of the road and the soldiers were bailing out of the back. As they hit the shaking frozen ground they started falling every which way, laughing uncontrollably at their apparent clumsiness. As it turned out, the timing of the quake probably spared many lives, my dad being one of them. Upon returning to his office a few days later, he discovered that the giant, heavy bookcases behind his desk had fallen in the quake. Had he still been at work, sitting at his desk, they would have crushed him.

Once it was over, we sat in the car listening to the radio to hear about all of the devastation. We heard about Seward, where we would go on summer fishing vacations and fish from the old pier, had been hit hard and the pier was no more. We heard that Turnagin, a beautiful neighborhood, had mostly disappeared into the bay.

But it all became terribly real when we heard that my oldest brother’s high school buddy, Lee, had been killed when he was hit by a piece of concrete falling from the J.C. Penney’s building.

earthquakes can be terrifying, and I think anyone who has experienced a big quake likely has intense empathetic feelings for others who experience big quakes. The recent China quake brought back a lot of memories though I can’t imagine dealing with the massive loss of life the Chinese are dealing with now.

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