Nov. 30 earthquake: A day of destruction but also connection
The sound and the fury of a magnitude 7.1 earthquake is what many Alaskans will remember — but also the many acts of kindness, big and small, that followed.
Many who experienced the forces unleashed on Nov. 30 said they felt them before they fully understood what was happening.
A lot of the regulars at the Sandwich Deck restaurant, next door to the Hotel Captain Cook, were downtown that morning — customers like Chris McNeese, a judicial assistant, who was on the fifth floor of the Nesbett Courthouse.
McNeese says she held onto the doorway with one arm and to her coworkers, with the other. Together, they watched the water cooler tumble to the floor and slosh back and forth.
“My standard prayer for earthquakes is please don’t let it get any bigger. Please don’t let it get any bigger," said McNeese, who is also a survivor of the 1964 earthquake.
When the earthquake struck, Taylor Humecky was asleep at a friend’s house. When she was tossed out of bed, she immediately grabbed her newborn daughter.
“It was kind of hard to hold on to her and hold onto the wall — so I just had to do my best, because those tremors were pretty hard, pretty strong,” she said.
Shane Rogers, the owner of the Sandwich Deck restaurant, says he heard the sound of the quake first.
“Have you ever been to an Aces game?” Rogers said. “And they get the thunder rolling into the Sullivan Arena?”
After the roar, Rogers says, lights suspended from the ceiling began to swing wildly back and forth.
“People are coming over here. They’re like in their pajamas and everything because they’re evacuating the Captain Cook,” Rogers said. “I really didn’t want to kick anybody out.”
So he didn’t — and not only let people stay — but offered them free coffee and sandwiches.
“It’s a natural disaster and people need to feel like they’re welcome,” Rogers said.
Betty Knutsen, one of Rogers’ customers, was home that morning when she grabbed her television set and tried to keep it from falling.
Knutsen, an elder who lives alone, said she felt foolish trying to save her TV instead of herself. She says she was relieved when her upstairs neighbors reached out to help.
“The important thing is that people came down and checked on me,” Knutsen said.
They also gave her a hug and took her upstairs, so she wouldn’t have to be by herself.
Chris McNeese, who was sharing lunch with Knutsen, says after the quake, she was glad to rediscover that humanity and kindness to others still exist.
So one year later, as we try to fit the pieces of the puzzle of that tumultuous day together, perhaps the only thing we know for sure is that kindness was the glue that helped us heal and recover.
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