The Street just Disappeared
by Richard Francis
(Sacramento, CA, USA)
On 4th Ave
A friend of mine, Tom Jones (not the singer), used to go to the 4th Avenue Theater nearly every weekend and then go grab a shirt or pair of pants at our favorite store on 4th avenue.
I was standing in front of the 4th Avenue Theater on good Friday when the 1964 Alaska earthquake hit. I grabbed onto a streetlamp post.
The street was like a wave on water, and you would lose sight of the buildings down the street behind a wave of pavement, and then you would see them again.
Then the buildings started dropping one by one and each one that dropped was closer to me than the last one.
The front of JC Penney's fell on a car parked nearby, and my lamp post was hitting the ground on either side.
Then it just stopped.
My dad had been on his way to pick me up at the theater and arrived a few minutes after things stopped shaking.
We went home to Turnagian Arms and only a few things had fallen off their shelves. I ran one block over to check on my friend's house, and it was gone! It had fallen down the cliff towards the ocean. Many houses shared the same fate. Luckily, most people were not home along that street.
Some were not so lucky.
A Note from Anchorage Memories
While we often see pictures and hear stories about what it was like on 4th Avenue during the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, most of those stories are about the section of 4th Avenue around the D and D Bar and Cafe (pictured above), not the area around the 4th Avenue Theater and the Federal building across the street.
Your description of the pavement looking like waves in the ocean and buildings farther down the avenue just dropping down, is astonishing and must have been terrifying for you. All while you were hanging on to a lamp post as it swayed wildly back and forth.
And after that, returning to your family home in Turnagain, among the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Anchorage.
One of the things we notice from the stories submitted here by survivors of the 1964 Alaska earthquake, is that every account is different and the unimaginable things that we, as survivors, went through during those 5 minutes of sheer terror.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with our Anchorage Memories visitors.
BONUSGreat 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.
Check out Great Alaskan Earthquake Survivor