We are shaken, but not defeated

First, let me thank all of you who reached out to find out if I was safe after the earthquake on Friday.  I’m safe and so are my hubby, family, and friends.  It was terrifying, but we all survived it.  We’re picking up the pieces and trying to return to normal as quickly as possible.  There’s still a lot of damage to some of our roads and buildings (school is actually closed this entire week as they get facilities up and running again), but we’re holding in there.

If you didn’t hear, we had a giant earthquake on Friday morning at 8:30am here in Anchorage, Alaska.  By giant, I mean 7.0 and it lasted for over a minute.  Then a second wave of 5.8 hit and I don’t know how long that one lasted.  It was two big quakes back to back.

I was at school when it hit.  Thankfully it was early enough in the morning that the kids hadn’t yet arrived for school (except a few early dropoffs).  I’m not sure I could’ve been brave for them, like I always try to be in the face of danger.  I heard it starting, that roar they always talk about and I was confused.  I didn’t know what that sound was and when it started, I foolishly thought, “Oh another tremor.”  Then the building really started to rattle all around me.  Things were dropping off shelfs or walls and pinging around the room.  I was in the middle of the room wondering if this was the “next big one.”

You see, in Alaska, on March 27, 1964 there was a major earthquake.  MAJOR.  It literally impacted the world and earthquake science as we know it today.  It was one of the second largest recorded earthquakes in the world TO THIS DAY.  Cities were wiped out, tsunamis happened, landscapes were forever changed.  I grew up listening to these stories from my mom and Aunt who survived it.  I researched it for a story and heard a lot of the chilling stories.  I’ve visited Earthquake Park and looked at the damage left behind.  All the local Alaskans talk about the next big one we know is coming since that day.

As the earthquake on Friday hit, I wondered if this one was it.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive.  I wasn’t sure how bad it was.  I know we lost power immediately as the Emergency lights came on almost instantly with the shaking and when I checked outside I saw that power was out everywhere around the school too.  I tried to pick up a bit but evacuated with everyone else too, putting on my brave face for the kids that were there and wondering if there would be school that day.  I couldn’t use my cell to call anyone.  Phone lines were down (or overtaxed).  I was able to text my husband right away though and know that he was okay.

We would both be at school (he’s a teacher too) for the next few hours dealing with trying to get kids picked up, etc. as school was cancelled for the day.  By the time we made it home, the lights were still off.  We both went inside and opened every curtain we could find to let in light and see what had damage we had to deal with.  Stuff had fallen everywhere.  Some of it I knew to expect, others I was surprised hadn’t fallen.  A few things broke, but nothing I couldn’t live without.  It was all things.

In the meantime, I was texting everyone I could think of to make sure they were okay.  And letting everyone know via Facebook that I was okay.  I finally got ahold of a friend of mine who doesn’t believe in cell phones or social media about the time that power came back on.  She needed help so we went to her house to help clean up her place next.  The roads were slow going everywhere (traffic lights out).  I’d seen pictures of roads destroyed by fissures so I was worried about driving anywhere without knowing the lay of the land.  A lot of places were closed as everyone was heading home to check for damage.  It was quickly becoming a ghost town.  Everything everywhere got hammered (bookstores, grocery stores, homes, etc.).

It was declared a disaster.  Worries about water and gas were now an issue. Etc, etc.  But it wasn’t until the next day that I realized it was going to take some time to return to normal.  Even grocery shopping wasn’t normal.  Empty shelves (from damaged goods now gone) were aplenty.  Floors were damaged and duck taped with bright tape to warn you to watch your footing.  Ceiling panels were missing in giant gaps like a first grader’s teeth.

And then there were the aftershocks.  They are quick and sudden, but violent.  Every bit as strong as the first one, though now tapering off in intensity and repetition.  I actually slept last night.  That first night, I barely slept, waking up every time a shake hit.

It’s been rough.  And yet… Alaskans are survivors.  You get out and about and you hear everyone talking about this.  “How did you do?”  “I was at the blah blah blah when it hit.”  We’re all out getting emergency supplies (water and staples that don’t need power to be cooked) and NOT fighting.  That’s what a lot of people are talking about.  We check on others.  It’s what Alaskans do.

School is cancelled all week.  I’m sure when I get back and the kids get back that they will be talking about this too.  And they’ll be scared.  And I will put on my brave face for them, let them know they’re safe, and build up our classroom environment together again.  We’re cleaning up and trying to get back to normal.  We’re all okay.

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

2 Responses

  1. Suzanne Lewis

    So relieved to hear that you’re okay, Jena! I’m a native Californian and have experienced a couple of big shakers! It’s scary and ultimately life changing as we become reacquainted with the unpredictable force of nature, and the courage, strength and solidarity of individual and community response. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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