Imprinted Forever by the 1964 Earthquake
by Kathy Correll Clark
(Hartselle, Alabama )
I was 11 years old when the great “64” earthquake impacted my life.
We lived in what my mom liked to call the cesspool, an apartment at 13th & Cordova.
I was with our babysitter when the room started shaking, and it shook for a long time.
Things started to fall over, items fell out of the cupboards, and the babysitter and I held on to the wall and laughed. It was not a normal laugh, but a hysterical laugh birthed from fear. We were frozen in place, unable to utter a word, and we had no idea of what to do.
It felt like we were on some kind of rug that was being shaken for all it was worth.
Finally it stopped and we were left to wonder what had happened, and if anyone had survived.
My mother was working at a liquor store on 4th Avenue down by the Captain Cook Hotel when it struck. She said she ended up out in the street with both hands clenched full of cash, not knowing how she got there. Mom said it seemed to go on forever, she even heard the boiler blow up at the Northern Commercial building.
Mom went back in the store to find all the booze bottles broken all over the floor. Then after locking up the store she headed home to see if we were OK.
My brother Jim was in the JC Penney building when it hit. He was 13 at the time.
He said it was awful dark in the building until the front of the building fell off. He ran out into the street knocking a lady out of the way of a big concrete slab that fell off the building.
It took quite a while to find out how everybody was because the phone was down, but fortunately we had all survived.
We were totally amazed by all the damage we saw everywhere.
The streets in front of where we lived were cracked and up-heaved. And when we saw downtown we could not believe our eyes.
It was days before we got our heat and electricity back on, and we were given C-rations by the military to help with food shortages.
Wow so many amazing impressions for a kid to take in.
To this day when the earth shakes, I feel fear rear up it’s ugly head. I live in Alabama now, so we seldom feel the earth move, but even when it does ever so slightly I am brought back to that day that will be forever imprinted in my mind.
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A powerful story about a young teenage girl caught in the JC Penney building during the 1964 earthquake.
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