Monday, March 08, 2010

March 27, 1964 5:36pm

1964 Alaska EarthquakeMy mother and father were both sixteen years old in 1964. They were living in Anchorage, Alaska, going to West Anchorage High School and had just met and begun to date.

School had been closed for the observance of Good Friday and, as usual in March, there was snow on the ground and dusk was settling on the city of 100,000 as people came home from work and began their evening preparations. My mother, whose father was stationed at Elmendorf Airforce Base on the north side of town, was sitting at the kitchen table finishing up some homework when she felt the shake start.

Anchorage sits on the Rim of Fire at the point where the Pacific tectonic plate rubs up against the North American plate and earthquakes are common so she didn't give it much notice but after fifteen seconds went by and it was still shaking she began to get nervous.

My father was at home with his family. His parents were in the basement of their downtown home working on paperwork for the family business and his brother and sister were off with friends when the shaking began and as the seconds passed without any relief he too began to realize things were serious.

This month marks the 46th anniversary of the 1964 earthquake. At a magnitude of 9.2 it is the third largest known earthquake in all of earth's history and my parents were there when it happened. With the recent events in Haiti and Chile I've been thinking of their experiences and while I'd heard much of their stories before, I sat down with them this weekend to record their memories and share them with you.

I know this podcast is long--nearly thirty minutes--but their experiences are amazing and paint such vivid pictures of what it was like to experience this unique event that I think it's justified. You'll hear their voices and see pictures from state archives that chronicle the damage. What an amazing world we live in when I can sit in Anchorage, Alaska and speak virtually face-to-face with my parents in Bangalore, India then present it to you as a podcast? The quality of sound isn't fabulous but it's good enough--though if you find it's too soft try listening with headphones.



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23 comments:

Patricia L said...

My Grandfather was stationed at that air base, but I guess they had been transferred before '64. What an incredible story.

Suzi Dow said...

What a fabulous piece of oral family and geological history!!! Thanks.

Summer said...

I'm so glad you documented their memories of this event. How incredible! I really enjoyed this.

Suzie B. said...

WOW! I loved this! I was almost part of the conversation. What a piece of history!

cndymkr / jean said...

This is a fantastic piece of history. Make sure you keep this for your future grand kids. Thanks for sharing it with us.

cndymkr / jean said...

My favorite part had to be the end, where your Dad got to hold your Mom's hand.

Kim said...

Really interesting! I just emailed the link to your interview to my husband, as I know he'll want to hear it.

My parents lived in Ketchikan, so they didn't feel the quake. I can totally relate to what your dad said, though, about the intensity building and it feeling like it went on forever . . . that's what it feels like in a 30-second tremor, so I can't even imagine going through a FIVE MINUTE quake!

carrie / george bell said...

Thanks for this - it was great to hear your folks ... I don't remember knowing that they had both been in Anchorage in '64. Wow.

Scribbit said...

I love the way you signed your name Carrie :)

Fawn said...

Michelle, that's amazing. I'm about halfway through listening right now. I've got to share this at least on Facebook -- totally awesome to hear about this from people who were there.

Viki said...

That was so interesting. I'm amazed that your patients at the age took note of all the different events that they remembered. Thanks for sharing this.

Soy Mami said...

Just so awesome to have this preserved forever [your mom sounds so neat!]. I'm in Los Angeles, where I've felt my share of large-ish quakes, and every time we have a 'big' one, tons of people flee the state. I cannot imagine 5 minutes of such a huge quake . . . brave folks your parents to keep living there!

I'm eager now to record my mom's voice desribing her and my dad's exit from Cuba. Thank you for the inspiration, and for sharing this!

CountessLaurie said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing that! I am glad your dad got to hold your mom's hand!!

~3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Michelle I too have been thinking, wondering, remembering with all the earthquake activity of late. It is so great that you have documented all of this. Unless you were there you can never truly appreciate it without a narrative from someone who was.

After having been in the 1971 Sylmar, CA and Northridge, CA 1994 quake there are just so many things embedded forever in my mind that hearing your parent's story has made more vivid than ever.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Fascinating. Thank you for sharing this... and I remembered something while listening to your parents talk about how - at first - they didn't think the damage was too bad. It reminded me of my aunt who lived in San Francisco during the 89 quake. She was driving to the mall when it happened and remembered feeling irritated with everyone pulling over to the side of the road. "It's just a small one," she thought... until she got to the mall and saw then it was closed. Then she tried to drive back home, but the bridge she took to get to the mall was closed, too... because it collapsed. So glad your dad got to hold your mom's hand.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Michelle, thanks for doing that. I have heard mom and dad talk about the earthquake before but that was really cool. I was actually going to post a letter from Curtis's parents who are living in Santiago Chile tomorrow, they have some interesting information about what is going on down there. Im going to have to have a link to this. This was so interesting, I'll need to email it to John and Nancy too.

Daisy said...

You may want to get a transcript of this for history's sake. The technology will not always be usable; paper will.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Was this the huge earthquake with the tsunami? Or was that another?

I'm just watching LOST right now, but will come back and listen to this tomorrow. What a great idea.

The Source said...

That's wonderful. Those firsthand memories are priceless pieces of history.

We did something similar with my grandaddy who was in theh Pacific Theater during WWII. My boys just sat and talked for hours with him while he remembered all sorts of things. I stayed out of the way and videotaped. Then we came home and edited it together. It's something precious to us and we'll have his words forever once he's gone.

Jill in MA said...

Thank you for sharing this. I found it very fascinating! My husband and I visited Alaska a number of years ago, including Seward, so I knew a little bit about the devastating effects of the quake and the tsunami there. It was so interesting to hear your parents' first-hand account.

Kelli said...

I lived through the '71 earthquake that destroyed alot of So Calif, and the the '94 Northridge quake- rinse an repeat.

This podcast was interesting and brought back alot of memories. I am glad your parents came through ok!

Kelli said...

I lived through the '71 earthquake that destroyed alot of So Calif, and the the '94 Northridge quake- rinse an repeat.

This podcast was interesting and brought back alot of memories. I am glad your parents came through ok!

Mustang Suzie said...

I'm sure I must know your parents! I was a senior at West Anchorage High School during the time the quake hit and also LDS. You might like to check out our 1964 Alaskan Earthquake group on Facebook for more stories if you haven't already. My name on FB is Suzanne Cook Taylor. Thanks for doing this. We should all record or video our experiences during the quake along with writing our stories.Are your parents serving a mission in India?