Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good Friday Remembrance

My mom survived the Good Friday Earthquake.  Our family has a bit of lore about this event; though likely not as much as other families.  It is poignant for us.

On the evening of 27 March my mother was playing in the dining room with a toy electric mixer.  When she turned it on, her mother's china started falling off the wall.  She turned off the mixer, thinking for a nano-second that she had cause the plates' demise, then realizing it was an earthquake.

A month later, on the morning of 27 April, my mother asked her father to not fly that day.  She had dreamed that he would die, but her parents shrugged it off thinking of it as merely being a child that wanted daddy to stay home to play.  He flew delegates out to Valdez to survey the quake damage and, according to the family lore, those delegates watched helplessly as the plane took off from Valdez and crashed about a mile out to sea.  Bodies were never located, and only a few scraps of the plane were found.  This was the second husband with an empty grave for my grandmother--her first husband was lost over Sicily during WWII (they never found him or his plane).

According to wiki:  On 27 April 1964—barely a month after the quake—an Alaska Air National Guard C-123 plunged into the ocean shortly after takeoff from the Valdez airport. Killed was the plane’s three-man crew, including the pilot, Lt. Col. Thomas Norris Sr.; the co-pilot, Maj. James Rowe (who, circling Anchorage in a C-123 a month earlier, had served as the eyes and ears of the world in the aftermath of the earthquake); and the flight engineer, TSgt. Kenneth Ayers. Also dead was Maj. Gen. Thomas Carroll, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.

We had this event marked on our calendar, but we did nothing about it.  I'm not sure how to handle this particular day of importance.  It's not a holiday.  There isn't a celebration.  But it is an important date in our family lore.  One that I want my children to somehow connect with--but how do accomplish that when you live far away from the location?  If we were in Anchorage we would visit Earthquake Park, take a picnic drive to view the trees standing naked at the end of the inlet where they were killed by the salt water of the tsunami.  Maybe an outing to Valdez next month and a visit to the memorial headstone for my grandfather?  But alas, we live some six time zones away.  How do you commemorate the second largest earthquake since 1900?

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