Our family had a second Thanksgiving, or rather, a second giving of thanks last week and for good reason.
In 1990 the US Army sent our family to Anchorage, Alaska with my assignment to Ft. Richardson. Four years later, I retired, and our family planted our flag in Anchorage for the next twenty-three years.
A year ago, Pam and I moved from Anchorage to St. George, Utah having decided that at our advancing age, Alaska winters were getting a bit tough to take both physicallyand mentally.
The hardest part was leaving behind four children, four grandchildren, daughters-in-law, friends, and a home with all its wonderful memories that we’d known for twenty-seven years.
Of course, when the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Anchorage last week, we were anxious and fearful. We’ve been through enough quakes, some pretty good rockers, that we immediately knew that one of that strength could be severe, perhaps even devastating.
It was with deepest thanks and with tears in our eyes that we found out during theday that all of our Anchorage family, sons, Grant, Patrick, Joseph, and Matthew, Joseph’s wife DeLynda, Matthew’s girlfriend, Tomi, and our grandchildren, Isaac, Eve, Esther, and Leah were safe and sound. As Pam said in her Facebook post, “Shaken, but all fine.” A quite intended pun and both literal and accurate.
They’ve all got stories to tell.
Patrick was working on the 8th floor of City Hall when the quake hit. Downtown Anchorage buildings are built with the ability to sway/tilt quite a bit without breaking when an earthquake hits. Nevertheless, as the building began to shimmy from the intense shaking, Patrick’s gallows humor was, “is it better to be on the bottom floor when a quake hits and the building falls on you or is it better to be on the top floor and ride the falling debris down to the ground floor?”
He rode out the quake standing in a doorframe but both he and Grant, who works in the same building and was on the 7th floor had a hard time exiting the building as the stairways became jammed and nearly impassable due to damage and an injury. Both made it out however as did everyone else in the building.
Joseph is a supervisor with FedEx at the airport. After the earthquake, his company decided to send everyone home until they could do an assessment of the facility and their ability to process packages. What is usuallya 15-minute drive home for Joseph took an hour and a half because the damage to the main roads was such that he had to keep turning around and finding alternate ways to his house.
Now, that doesn’t sound bad except that many gas stations were unable to pump because of no electricity and those few who were open had mammothlines of cars. Run out of gas and it’s a long walk home in the cold, snow, and ice.
DeLynda, Joseph’s wife, was at home when the temblor hit. She said that their dog, Pepper, a smallChihuahua was perfectly fine during the shaking. However, their large(and therefore supposedly brave) dog, Paisley, was a scaredy-dog, whining, running around, and crying in fright.
They lost power for a bit but it returned a few hours later. Losing power for a few hours doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, in Anchorage, boilers provide most of the heating in residential homes. Boilershave electrical components that make them work in heating the water that flows through the baseboard heaters and providing enough warmth to heat a house. No electricity, no working boiler. No working boiler, no heat. No heat and it becomes frigid, swiftly.
Some homes have working fireplaces or wood stoves and some folks have cut and stored wood for those fireplaces. But not all, especially if you live in an apartment, or condo, or townhouse. Some homes use gas to heat and have gas fireplaces, and yes, a good many lost their gas for a while, so again, no heat.
Matthew and Tomi lost all utilities(heat, lights, water, gas, etc.) to their apartment. But talk about luck. Several months ago, they booked a flight out of Anchorage for Hawaii, not knowing the day they picked to fly would be the day of the earthquake.
The airport authorities closed the airport due to some flooding, and damage assessment but reopened about six hours later. Matthew and Tomi managed to get to the airport only to find long, long, long lines of people trying to make their flights. Yes, they made their flightand are now in Hawaii applying copious amounts of sunscreen to winter-white bodies.
Grant had some sight damage to his home. The chimney stack cracked from the shaking and sent a number ofcinder blocks onto his roof, exposing the chimney’s damaged inner sleeve. However, no damage to the rest of the structure and the chimney is easily repaired.
When Patrick returned home, he discovered massive damage: several spice jars fell out of the spice rack. Seriously, everything appears to be good and the zoo animals that live there—two dogs, a cat, a huge bearded lizard, hamsters, and who knows what else the kids have acquired lately were fine.
Eve, one of our beautiful granddaughters told us that the authorities evacuated her high school due to a gas leak. She and her brother had to stand out in the freezing cold without a coat (they weren’t allowed to retrieve their jackets once the evacuation began) for over an hour until Patrick was able to get there and put them in a warm car.
We spoke to several of our friends there and they reported that their families came out unscathed. From our family’s reports, and the news, the impact to the infrastructure in and around Anchorage is serious especially to roads and bridges, along with water and gas lines.
Life will not be normalfor quite a while as the damage assessment continues. As of this writing, only one death occurred. I am sad that even one life was lost, however, for me, it is somewhat of a miracle that more were not and for that I am grateful.
Alaska is a beautiful, majestic place. It is also a land of fire and ice. Living there, you know you reside in earthquake country. You take as many precautions as you can, however, when an earthquake hits, and we experienced somesignificant quakes ourselves when we were there, when TerraFirma is no longer firma, it is both unnerving and frightening. It also reminds you of the incredible power of nature.
Alaskans are a resilient, tough people, they will get through this and they will rebuild. After some time, life will return to normalcy and life will go on. It seems as though it always does.
So, for our family, we celebrated a second giving of thanks this year as we gave eternal, heartfelt gratitude that our Anchorage family is safe, as are our dear friends who still live in the Great Land. You can replace buildings, roads, bridges; precious lives you cannot.
I sincerely hope that in the coming days and years, that I, along with all of our family, will remember this second Thanksgiving and always, always be grateful for the blessings our family received during a time of great trial and tribulation.