I am a survivor of the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. A publisher has spoken for the first printing rights to that specific story. The following tale is but a scribble still coming into composition. Readers bear with me here. Thanks.
Alaska. Even the name sounds icy. For me, a four-year-old steeped in stories of Santa Claus and Christmas trees; it was love at first sight.
We arrived at Elmendorf Air Force Base when it was still summer, and I met my other first love, a neighbor boy, John. He was a year older than I was and could ride a bike. Besides Mighty Mouse and my dad, he was my hero.
There was a night, a special night, when dad took us to the movie theater. It was a double feature. John and I watched Babes in Toyland and Snow White and the Three Stooges. That wasn’t all that happened on that night, there was a parade in the streets of Anchorage.
When we came out of the theater, it was dark outside and crowds lined the sidewalks. Old-fashioned Christmas lights dangled between lampposts and everyone shoved against one another for better viewing of what was to come down the street. Music played from unseen speakers and the tune I remember hearing was one that scared me, Big Bad John. I looked up to a large man standing beside us just as he glanced down at me. He was much taller than my dad was and his face had an ugliness within it that chilled me to the bone. I knew, without a doubt, he was Big, Bad John.
I don’t know what the parade was for but my dad hoisted me up on his shoulders to see it. I was too busy keeping an eye on the frightening man beside us to notice much else.
My John wasn’t’ bad at all. In fact, he was my Tom and I was his Mary and for the rest of the summer we rescued many neighborhood children from the evil snatches of Barnaby, who remained invisible, since no kid wanted to play they were Barnaby.
I would later realize just how special that night at the movies was. Not only would John move away right before school started, leaving me feeling lost and alone, but less than two years later, that movie theater would sink deep into a crevasse during the 1964 earthquake. I didn’t know it yet but I was being primed for a life where nothing lasts, not friends, not places, not even the ground I walked on would endure forever. The term is emotional detachment.
Emotional detachment is a false term though, really. I know it is. My heart hurts even within protective walls. Pain has its way of seeping through them.
To better understand what people experienced in the quake and tsunamis, here are some links to this event:
Click here for tsunami Info and a great re-enactment photo. coastalnewstoday.com
Here are images of the devastation: Google images
If you were there, please leave a comment. There is much I cannot express about the quake. Every time I attempt to break the walls, my heart, it . . . hurts and my brain locks up a lot. This is not emotional detachment. The emotions are there. I feel them. I cry about things my brain locked out, it’s as if my emotions are too deep for my mind. Can anyone relate?
My dad, besides being a squadron leader, was in charge of the base supplies. He had to go and check the damage and see who needed what on the base and in the city and coordinate help. I went with him.
Enough for tonight. I have to go and wipe my nose and wash my face.
End of Part 1