Great Alaskan Earthquake

by Mary J. Dougherty

My older brother Norman and I were shopping downtown in the JC Penney's Department store.

At 5:36 p.m. and 14 seconds, panic swept over us.

Suddenly, there was a big jolt. Crack and snap! The building started shaking. Norman and I looked at each other and wondered what was going on. Suddenly, a female clerk jumped over the counter and sprinted away before the really hard shaking started. Then we heard someone yell, “Earthquake!”

Growing up in Alaska, we had ridden out earthquakes before. However, the 1964 Alaska earthquake earthquake started to sound and feel entirely different from all the others.

Then there was a huge cracking sound. Worrisome, we both looked up at the ceiling, the lights were swaying back and forth. Perfume bottles, boxes, and clothes were falling off the shelves and landing all around us. Norman and I were scared out of our wits. We clutched our hands together as panic swept over us, and we started running in search of an exit.

This was the absolute worst earthquake we had ever felt. All we had to do was look at each other to know how frightened we were. People were screaming and running and pushing. Just ahead of us we saw an exit that would take us away from this danger.

We ran toward the exit. Then suddenly, I was laying on the floor. What had happened to me? And what had fallen on me? A heavy metal post card rack had toppled over, and it had me pinned down on the floor.

Completely stunned, there I was, laying on the floor looking up and still watching all the chaos. I saw people's legs and boots as they ran past me. I guess I was yelling for help because all of a sudden, Norman picked up the metal rack or someone may have helped him. I don't remember, but I scrambled to my feet feeling shaken but not hurt.

Both of us were terrified from all the noise and the rolling floor from the earthquake as we started for the exit once again.


Read the rest of this remarkable story of survival by a young girl named Mary and her brother as they tried to escape the collapsing JC Penny's building in downtown Anchorage.

Take a look at Great Alaskan Earthquake Survivor and imagine.

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Thank You, Mary, for sharing.
by: Gordon Parker

An excellent description, Mary, of what we all experienced.

The worst part is that just outside the Penny's building my friend Lee Stier died as he tried to get the '63 Chevy he had recently received for his birthday to safety. He was a nice guy. He deserved better.

Thank you for describing the experience we shared.

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