David Kanzler – Elmendorf AFB

Elmendorf Air Force Base, adjacent to Anchorage, is the largest Air Force installation in Alaska and home of the Headquarters, Alaskan Command.

I was 4 years old and living in the Cherry Hill area of Elmendorf Air Force Base. My father was away on a mission leaving my mother and their 5 children “home alone.” I was coming up the basement stairs when the quake hit and I remember falling down the stairs. The shaking was unbelievably violent but I also remember the sound of the quake. The noise the earthquake made is rarely mentioned, but I can vividly remember the loud rumble which sounded like a freight train at high speed. In fact I thought the cause of it all was a freight train coming out of the ground from below the apartment.

The kitchen was a mess with all of the jars of food and condiments broken on the floor. All of my brothers’ model airplanes had come down from their perches as well as books, figurines, etc. My brothers’ school, Government Hill Elementary was destroyed, but as noted was closed that day for Good Friday.

With no electricity or heat, that night we gathered with other families on our living room floor and slept in sleeping bags. It was a great adventure for a 4 year old, but tremors and fires in the fuel storage area nearby (above ground due to the permafrost – since buried) kept the adults worried for days.

I can still remember my friend Mary Jo and me pushing on the side of the apartment building later that summer and trying to get the building shaking again!