Lori Lynn – Anchorage

I was 9 years old in 1964. We had lived in Anchorage since 1959. My sister 4 years older than myself was home alone. My Dad worked at 5th and gamble and my Mom was working in the J.C.Penny’s building 2rd floor.

Me and my sister had just finished straighten up the mobile home (we lived at Idle Wheels park) and had opened a pack of cards to play “Go Fish” and the trailer started rocking and rolling. My sister knew we need to get out so she grabbed me and ran. The T.V. was swaying back and forth and she saved me from being hit by it, as we got out.

My dad worked 10 minutes away and it seems like he was at our trailer before the quake stopped. My sister and I were over at the neighbor’s trailer by then and I remember seeing inside their trailer and all the cupboards were open and everything was on the floor. My Dad told us We had to go get my Mom at Penney’s. I remember being so scared that my Mom was dead. I don’t remember how we even got downtown, But after sitting in the car waiting for my Dad to find her, I was so never so happy to see anyone in my whole life.

My Mom was okay, She never did remember how she got out, but she had 2 kids with her that she helped out of the rubble. Our trailer wasn’t damaged much, so our friends whose apt. was damaged moved in with us. So there were 7 kids under 13 with 4 adults staying in a single wide mobile. We boiled snow with Clorox to drink and flush the toilet. My dad and his friend went out every day to help with whatever they could and we have some good pictures of the damages around town.

The after tremors at all times of the day and night really scared us. My Dad sent us “Outside” to Washington state to stay with family for 3 months to calm my Mothers nerves but We were back up there as soon as he let us. We were back and forth to Alaska for the next 10 years. My mom driving the Alcan Highway with my sister and me. They bought a house in Vancouver, WA So I had the choose to finish school in Washington and a year after I graduated I meet and later married a Man that was born in Palmer, AK. He was living in Seaside, Oregon in 1964 and was run out of town by the tsunami wave created by the Alaska earthquake.

My husband is now retired from the Air Force after serving 30 years. I was back in Anchorage in 1995 when my dad passed away.

Thank You for letting me tell you about my experience during the quake Only someone that was there really knows how I felt and how scary it was for a child of 9 years old


Sandy Gunvalson Anderson – Chugiak Account

Chugiak is a community approximately 20 miles (12 km) northeast of Anchorage.

I was 12 years old, living in Chugiak, at the time of the Good Friday earthquake. We lived in a 3-room log cabin about a quarter of a mile off Birchwood Loop North. My older brother was on his 2-week encampment with the National Guard. My mother and father were both home, as was I at the time of the earthquake. It was a very frightening experience and the longest 4 minutes I’ve ever experienced. I remember my mother grabbing me and we stood in the doorway of the cabin. I think my dad was ready to catch the TV. His one-ton truck bounced all over the yard, but interestingly enough, our wood pile stayed pretty much intact. The entire pile appeared to be rocking together, as if it were placed in a giant rocking chair. Damage to our house wasn’t great, however, we did lose our well shortly afterwards and a support beam under the cabin cracked.

The medicine cabinet emptied itself, and furniture shifted. Mother’s plants on the window sill all fell and water sloshed out of the pan we kept on the wood stove, so we had a lot of mud on the floor. The earthquake was even completely over yet, when our neighbors across the street and their children came over to our house. They, like us, were frightened. We apparently had only electric radios which did us no good without electricity, so my father ran his truck and wired a speaker from the truck radio into the house. We went to bed that night with our clothes and boots on, so we could leave quickly in case we had to evacuate. As instructed on the radio, we also packed a bag with groceries for evacuation, mostly canned items, and discovered to our amusement much later, that we had not included a can opener. We eventually heard that the National Guardsmen were okay – that was great relief, although they were put on extended duty. My brother had to tromp through damaged homes in Turnagain By The Sea looking for bodies.

Nearly 40 years later (and in another state) I had an “earthquake flashback”. I was in a pharmacy which had antique pharmaceutical bottles on display. There was a demolition and construction project underway across the street. Some heavy equipment was rumbling and all those display bottles were vibrating and clinking. It felt and sounded like an earthquake. I had to leave.

Gregory Robinson – Valdez

I was 18 months old when the earthquake happened so I have no memories of that day. We lived in Valdez at that time. My dad was working down at the dock. Mom at the hospital. My sister and brother and I were at home with the babysitter. I was in a highchair next to the refrigerator, Lynne and Richard were playing hide-n-seek hiding behind the couch in the living room when everything began to rumble. I’m told I took a beating from the refrigerator and the wall. Lynne and Richard took the same kind of beating from the couch. The babysitter knew she had to get us all outside as the house was coming apart. She said it was shaking so violently that she had trouble getting to each of us and then getting us all to the front door of the house. The front door stairs and small patio were pulling away from the house as a fissure had formed between the two. The babysitter had to toss each of us across then she jumped, but in doing so fell and broke a few ribs because of the violent shaking.

Down at the docks my dad, Richard Robinson, was operating a forklift. He and several men from town were helping unload the ships that were docked there. That area was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunamis that hit the area. He was one of the 32 people killed in Valdez. His body was never found. We believe he went down with the underwater landslide. Watch “Alaska: Thought the Earth Be Moved. The Alaskan earthquake” to see actual earthquake footage as it append in Valdez.

Mom was working at the hospital, the floors dropped and water and sewage started flooding the floors. She says in the confusion her first thought were to keep the bed sheets from getting dirty. Once she got her wits about her she knew she had to find us kids. Once we were located she headed for the docks but was met by grandpa saying not to go down there as Richard was gone.

Word soon got around that we needed to get out of town and to higher ground, which we did.

Later we were evacuated to Fairbanks. From there we went to Salt Lake City, Utah to be with family. (15 years later Lynne was also killed on Good Friday)

Monica Maack Tiller – Kodiak Naval Base

I was nine years old and my dad was a Chief Petty Officer stationed at the Naval Base on Kodiak Island. It was Good Friday, and we had just finished eating dinner. I remember my dad sitting in his easy chair reading the newspaper while my mom finished putting away the dishes, when the first tremor started. I had just walked into the living room and stopped dead in my tracks. My dad looked up at me and I looked at him when the big tremor came. I just stood there watching him as he grabbed onto the floor lamp next to him and my mom was yelling from the kitchen, trying to hold the cabinets shut so that the dishes wouldn’t fall out. I don’t remember how long the quake lasted, probably a minute, but it seemed like forever. Once it stopped, dad jumped up and turned on the television to see what was being reported.

My next recollection was that we were soon packing belongings and moving to stay with the families who lived on higher ground because there was the threat of tidal waves. We stayed the night with a family we didn’t know (as did many other families that night), the children sleeping while the parents stayed up all night gleaning news and waiting to see if we would have subsequent quakes or tidal waves.

Luckily, our housing area did not suffer any damage from the quake or from the tidal wave, but parts of the Base did get hit with the tidal wave and downtown Kodiak was severely damaged by the tidal wave, washing boats ashore into the township.

As I was still a child, the experience was one of adventure for me. The day after the major quake (several smaller quakes would follow in the weeks to come), those whose homes we shared the night before had to come down to stay with us as their power went out and we had big gas furnaces which we used to cook small meals on, as well as grills and hibachi pots. As it was Easter, my mom had fortunately already boiled the Easter eggs, so the children decorated the eggs with crayons. Some of the people on the Base put together an Easter party for all the kids with baskets and stuffed animals for each of us. Yet even with these special treats, the gravity of the situation was all around us as we saw the huge cracks left in the roads and Base runway, and the high water lines on the buildings where the tidal wave came ashore. The memory of those days will always be with me.

Monica Maack Tiller
Wichita, Kansas

Glenna Silvan – Palmer and Wasilla

I am sending what I remember from the great quake. I lived between Palmer and Wasilla on a farm. There were 7 children but my two older sisters had grown and gone. I was 12 years old. My father had just gotten home from work. He worked for the ‘Road Commission’ which had the responsibility to keep all the roads in and around Palmer clear of snow and ice. Often he would work through the night. My mother was a registered nurse.

We were all getting ready to head to a church potluck, when it began. Just before the quake began I was on my way to the outdoor clothesline. The days had begun to get longer and dusk was just starting. It was all of a sudden when all the animals (we raised cows, had dogs, and cats galore) and birds were silent. The sky seemed to intensify and become darker in a single moment. I made my way back into the house with the frozen solid shirt when the quake first began.

As things started flying from our open shelves, my father told us all to get outside. We had 180 acres, with a 13 acre field in front of our house. We had an old trailer that was in our front area also. The cleared pasture was surrounded by very tall pine trees, upward of 80 feet and more. As we crowded out of the house trying to stand in a small circle, we kept falling. The trailer pitched to and fro like a child on a trampoline, and the trees surrounding the property were stooping to the ground as the earth heaved and rolled in waves.

We looked to our father, who was standing in the doorway of our home, unable to stand even with both shoulders and arms braced against the framing. The noise was incredible. The bouncing trailer, creeks and groans from our frame built home, and odd sounds from our car as it lurched and rocked back and forth, along with a deep under earth roar.

When the seemingly eternal quake ended, we surveyed the damage. The trees were back upright in the forest. Some of the larger field equipment had shifted several feet in the machinery park. We had a concrete floor in our milking barn, and a crack had formed right under the bulk tank that held the dairies milk each day. We dropped a stone and never heard it hit anything. There were cracks in the stucco covered home, and the root cellar that was built into a hill had disgorged the years food supply off its shelves onto the middle of the floor. There was a 3 foot high pile of home canned salmon, green beans, berries, stew and canned caribou and moose meat, and every kind of homemade jam imaginable.

Every year my mother would painstakingly raise a quarter acre garden and we would spend the spring and fall catching salmon, and canning almost everything. The exceptions would be put into the freezer where we had the seasons end of home grown strawberries, raspberries and green peas along with an array of frozen game that our father had shot that year.

The dishes in our cupboards were all on our floor, the food in piles on top of the dishes, except for the flour and sugar which occupied large barrels in 200 lb quantities.

Our property edged on a quiet lake, surrounded by rolling meadows. This time of year the ice was about 4 to 5 feet thick. We would ice skate and drive our truck on it and make donuts for fun. The ice in the center of the lake had ruptured and an abstract trophy-like pile of ice reached 12 feet or more, with mud from the lake bottom covering it like a hot fudge sundae.

The livestock were standing in a circle, away from the trees and near a pasture. It was as if they had sensed what was coming, or heard the groan deep beneath the earth that we could not hear. They had congregated and stayed there for several minutes after. They would be put in their stantions with fresh straw that evening, but the milk production dropped dramatically for a few days. The storage of our hay, in the barn had been violently pitched as if a mad man had been there, with no order in sight, everything jumbled together. The hay for the livestock was mixed in with broken bales of straw used for bedding the animals. It took a long time to right the mess.

We never made it to the church potluck. My father had to report to his work as soon as he could. The snow would still fall, and the quake had made many roads impassable. He was gone for what seemed like days, and when he returned he gave us reports of horrendous scenes of devastation to property, roads and houses. Still when we made it to church a week and a few days later, a list was hung in the foyer. On one side the heading was We Need and the other side

Heading was We Have. Under the ‘we need’ side there were no names. Under the we have side, there was list upon list of items members were willing to share. Everyone was just happy to be alive. But our small community banded together and things that needed to be rebuilt were rebuilt, and things that needed to be torn down, were torn down. Bales of hay were sorted and stacked in barns across the Matanuska Valley, and life continued.

The continued aftershocks would shake and rattle nerves every time they happened. And to this day when I am involved in an earthquake, small or large, I am not able to stand up, and end up in a fetal position crying. I even went to a mental therapist and told him when we were living in Seattle and had a 5 quake, what my reaction was. He said it was normal and while you can learn to overcome other fears, like flying or swimming, it would be pretty hard to conjure up an earthquake for a therapy session. My sister who is a few years younger and lives near me now tells me her reaction is the same.

We didn’t remain in Alaska long after the quake. We moved a little over a year later to Hawaii. My father sold his farm, cattle, equipment and buildings for $18,000, a pittance even then. I have not been back.

We are supposed to have a “Big One” here anytime. I hate thinking about it.

Glenna Silvan- Magna UT

Clark H. Jillson

I was 18 and a resident of Fairbanks and had never been to Anchorage before, but was there attending the Community College taking a two month class in surveying and soils testing. I was staying in a boarding house on K Street that was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bill Langford. Classes were over for the day and the rest of the boarders and I were just sitting down for supper, about to enjoy the meal that “Mother” [as we called her] had prepared for us. Suddenly there was a tremor that lasted only a few seconds.

One of the boarders said casually, “Hmm, earthquake.” Then it really hit with all it’s might. Everything was rocking and rolling. The cupboards in the kitchen all emptied out all over the place. Some of the stuff landed in a huge bowl of gravy that mother was preparing, slashing it all over her. I yelled out, “Let’s get out of here!” It was hard to stand but we all made it out of the back door that was only a few feet away. I remember one guy stumbled over to a nearby picket fence and managed to hold on to it. I grabbed the corner of the house and was holding on to that.

Looking down I saw the earth open and then close right between my feet. Looking up I saw the brick chimney swaying back and forth. I figured I was about to get it right on my head. Oddly enough it held together. Looking across the street I saw huge trees swaying from side to side. How they didn’t snap I will never know. The sound generated sounded to me like I was standing next to a railroad track with a train roaring past with the sound of continually breaking glass in the background. The air was full of the odor of natural gas. And then it was over.

A young girl of about 15 suddenly was running down our driveway screaming at the top of her lungs. My landlord’s son grabbed her as she ran by him, and just in time too for the whole backyard and rear portion of the house dropped down about 10 ft. From somewhere down the street I heard a man yelling, “Don’t light any matches!”
We all gathered together and found that nobody had been hurt. I went down to the end of K St. and looked out over Cook Inlet. Where earlier it had been frozen over solid the ice was now pulverized and the water level had dropped dramatically. Coming back up K St. I stopped at the intersection of 4th Ave. to gaze downtown. Just then an Anchorage policeman pulled up and asked if I would direct traffic at that corner. I told him I would and he left saying, “Don’t let anyone downtown!” I stayed there for a few hours. Traffic was almost nonexistent.

One man did pull up to me and said he had to get downtown. I told him that the police wanted nobody to go down there. He then told me that he was going through anyhow because his mother was down there. I let him pass without any argument.

Later as the sun was going down I remember looking downtown as big flakes of snow started to slowly fall. It was very quiet. I thought to myself [being a child of the Cold War] that this is how it would be after a nuclear attack. We all stayed in the house that night even though part of it was gone. My alarm clock had fallen off of the night stand beside my bed and was broken. It was the only thing I lost to the earthquake, and I have it to this day.

The next day we were told that we had to evacuate the house. The Langfords were fortunate enough to find a place where all of us tenants could stay together. I stayed there with them until my class was completed in May. I went home to Fairbanks and never saw any of them again. A few years later I moved to New York State. I understand that the area where the boarding house once stood is now a parking lot. These memories are as vivid today as they were then. I certainly will never forget.

Ron Waters

My Mom and Dad were very hard workers. Both worked more than one job. And being African American in Alaska, there were only two places where the adults all hung out. The original place was called the Flats; there were two restaurant bars and a small store. They all got together on Fri, Sat and Sun after church. Sometimes they would take us kids to Big Lake. These men were all from Texas or back east and they were here to make money so they could move back to Los Angeles or somewhere where they could start a life. And in some cases they were going to stay and work on the Pipe line that was coming.

The second place was opened by one of the richest black guys we knew. He was a friend of my dads as my dad was a jack of all trades. And, he had done some construction work and painting for him. His name was Mr. Ford as I remember and he built what would be called a strip mall today. It had a soul food restaurant, barber shop, beauty salon, pool hall and a night club. As they say, the place was jumping. The Fords would invite me, my baby sister Debbie, Mom and Dad over for dinner. My mom and dad had many friends that I remember. They have almost all passed away. They were hard working and hard partying folks who loved each other and shared everything.

There are a million stories I could tell. My father was a jack of all trades, superintendent of the Presbyterian hospital, janitorial contracts with Elmendorf and Fort Richardson. On weekends he took on jobs like cleaning up factory buildings and stripping floors and such. That is where I came in. I did all the work. He would show me how and watch me do all of the work. I would get a pancake breakfast at the soul food restaurant or a Steak and Egg breakfast at one of the bars in the flats. We lived at 1427 Orca in a prefab home with a full basement.

My father and I made up the basement into a nightclub and on Fridays he would have his own parties with a blues band, gumbo or chili, poker and numbers in the back. I would serve drinks for tips. My Mom and Dad where known for their hospitality. I remember many visits from friends in need. That day was like any other day. This day was the day we would prep the yard to grow grass. In Alaska grass dies during winter, but my dad insisted on planting Grass every year. So, two of my friends and I were in the process of cleaning the yard of rocks and raking to get it ready for seeds. We finished about 5:30 and went inside to watch Fireball XL5.

We were all lying across my mom’s bed watching Fireball XL5 coming on when it hit. My friend Andre said, it is an earthquake. I had no clue what that meant. All I knew was the entire world was shaking violently. We fell to the floor and started towards the living room. My father was yelling for us to get under the kitchen table as he was holding my sister in the front door frame. After about two minutes of really violent shaking, it started to rock back and forth very hard. I couldn’t stay under the table. I had to see. You could see cars rolling in the street. The street opened up a couple of times. The telephone poles were swaying back and forth.

As scary as that sounds we seemed to get used to it and we just held on until it finally stopped. I remember the next events very well. The most important one was what my father said. He said I have to leave you guys and head to the hospital. It must be a mess over there. My sister and I were in shock. From time to time we had people stay with us until they could get back on their feet. My mom and dad were known for that. We had the prettiest nurse staying with us. I can’t remember her name. Her boyfriend was a black doctor in the strategic air command. I remember people used to say. Anyway, she said her boyfriend would be coming to see about her. He did and took her and my sister up to a SAC military site. My father told me to leave with Andre and my other friend Bruce. Someone would come for me.

We ran from my house looking at the devastation as we ran. We ran past Fairview Elementary and only chairs had fallen. We were hoping to be out of school for a while. No such luck, the school was good to go. We ran to Andre’s house where his mother was still freaking out. She was so worried about Andre and Bruce my other friend. There were like 20 people there and all of them with a scared look in their face. A bright orange light shot through the sky right after dark and some of them screamed. A few minutes later a long black Lincoln pulled up. A large man in a heavy overcoat came to the door and asked for me. I remembered him. He was the henchman of one of my father’s poker friends. He asked for me and never spoke another word. I got in the back of the Lincoln and he took me home. He drove me home which was like three blocks.

When I went in, my dad had come back and set-up a generator, but he had to leave right after that. My mom was sitting there with a small light, a bunch of bottles of booze and Nat king Cole playing on the turntable. She said, are you hungry? I said no mama. Right then my dad showed up and took me with him back to the hospital. The hospital had dropped four feet straight down. We had a makeshift flashing light atop the car. When we got to the edge of town they had military guards set-up and the waived him through. We went to the hospital. All of the patients were gone. Now, there were only soldiers sitting around.

I went down to the cafeteria as that was my favorite place when visiting my dad’s job. It was destroyed and there was no way I was getting anything to eat that night… After those events I remember, the neighborhood fathers guarding the water, military rations out of the can. Going on double shift with Denali and selling newspapers in downtown Anchorage. I was out of school at noon every day. I was able to save up live 3-5 dollars a day selling newspapers in downtown Anchorage as my friend and I were the first kids in downtown everyday with new papers. I owned the entire Mattel fanner 50 gun set. I’m writing because the girl who wrote when the Music Stopped was my neighbor. We lived at 1427 Orca and we all went to school together. Fairview Elementary was one block down the street.

I was 11 ½ as well. Her brother and I were best of friends. Finding her story was like being back there in 1964. My father worked 48 straight hours and was written up in a small article in the newspaper. He was being praised for getting to the hospital and helping to get all of the patients moved to the other nearby hospital We moved to Southern California after that ( right in the middle of the Watts Riots) and I have worked in Information Systems ever since. And of course Disaster Recovery has always been my favorite work.

I even worked as a project manager for an outsource firm which basically does Disaster Recovery as a method to transition entire Data Centers. I moved the Rockwell Space Division Data Center which houses the as built shuttle manual for each shuttle flight. When John Glenn came to Anchorage after his historic flight I was the kid who led the rest of the kids into the street to shake his hand.