Home Alone

by Becky Cowen-Cornelius
(Anchorage, AK)

The JC Penny Building

The JC Penny Building

The original… “Home Alone”

I had turned 11 years old a couple of weeks before the Alaska earthquake in March 1964. My brother was 15.

We lived in a mobile home park on Muldoon road. It was Good Friday, and we were enjoying the day off and watching Fireball XL5 on TV.

Our parents were on their way home from work.

I got up to go to my bedroom for something when I heard this VERY loud growling sound. I started to yell at my brother to ask him what the heck IS THAT… when all hell broke loose, and the quake threw me into the wall of my bedroom.

I ran down the hall, being thrown from one side to the other, ending up in the kitchen. Dishes were falling out of the cupboards, and there was a sharp twist and the fridge door came open.

Trying my best not to step on anything, while fighting to remain standing up, I glanced out the window and saw cars that were parked outside, moving around all over the place.

I will never forget the rolling motion of the ground during the 1964 Alaska earthquake. I looked to my right through a window we had from the kitchen to the living room and remember my brother trying to catch whatever he could in an attempt to try and stabilize things.

Not only that, but I was being slammed one way then the other, it was such a struggle just to keep standing up, and at one point I lost that fight and fell. I got up and ran to the door where our trailer joined the addition my dad had built on.

It was horrifying to see the trailer separating repeatedly from the addition. I wasn’t about to jump through that and just tried to hang on.

The movement was so violent, never letting up the entire four and a half minutes, it just seemed to last forever.

I truly believed the world was coming to an end.

There were many strong aftershocks off and on which started the panic all over again. To this day, when we have an earthquake I always say to myself, stop, please just stop.

The panic feeling is there instantly and always will be.


Great Alaskan Earthquake Survivor

A powerful story about a young teenage girl caught in the JC Penney building during the 1964 earthquake.

An amazing story of survival.

Take a look at Great Alaskan Earthquake Survivor and imagine.

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Great Story
by: Cathy Heyworth Harris

You captured our stories very precisely.

Glad your family was safe afterwards.

I can Relate to Your Story
by: Denise Chronic

My experience was very similar.

I could hardly stand up and thought it was the end of the world.

To this day I have a paralyzing fear of earthquakes and aftershocks.

Funny how we both still live here and love this land (Alaska).

Nicely done.
by: Anonymous

Other than the mobile home, your story is like my own experience.

Not Alone, but Still Terrified
by: Linda [Minish] Wingfield

Your story echoes mine very much, except that we kids weren't alone at home. I've written my story, also (The Big Alaska Earthquake Part 1 and 2) Those 4-1/2 minutes were very, very terrifying, and I still do not like even the smallest quake at all, either.

I Was Only 6 Years Old
by: Darlene Fudge

I know the feeling well, and I panic whenever there is an earthquake. I was 6 at the time and lived in Spenard, a suburb of Anchorage. I balled my head off while my dad held the rocker/recliner I was seated in while it violently shook and moved.

Great 1964 Alaskan Earthquake Story
by: Mike

Your story really tells how terrifying the 1964 Good Friday earthquake was for everyone who lived through it.

My parents were in downtown Anchorage during the quake, so I know how you must have felt being "Home Alone" with your brother and not knowing if you or your parents would be alright.

Yes, I also thought it was the "end of the world" because the shaking was so incredibly violent and loud.

To this day, my wife Mary, who was in the J.C. Penny building during the quake, still gets very worried when the earth shakes and just wants it to stop.

Thank you for telling your story.

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