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