Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In a Matter of Minutes

The car door slammed behind me as Carol, Linda, and I dashed up the steps. Inside, Carol's mother asked, "Have you girls been watching TV?"

"No, why?" Carol asked.

"A news bulletin just said that the main street of Anchorage, Alaska, has been leveled by an earthquake," she answered.

"Oh, you're kidding!" I laughed. "It must be an exaggeration. We have earthquakes up there all the time."

Just then, the television announcer interrupted the programming: "And now for the latest report on the earthquake that hit Alaska early this evening...." We listened as a report by telephone from Fort Greeley, Alaska, came to us on a Portland television station.

It was Good Friday, 1964. I was visiting two friends in Portland, Oregon, during Easter vacation of my freshman year at Seattle Pacific College. I was 18 years old. I grew up in a missionary family in Alaska. Although I loved Alaska, my home for sixteen years, my dream growing up was to attend a Christian college where I could enjoy fellowship with Christians my own age, date Christian young men, and not feel like an outsider. That meant leaving Alaska.

Now, my home state was a disaster area. It had happened without warning in a matter of minutes.

I listened intently for news of Seward, where the rest of my family lived.

"...'The port city of Seward, 120 miles south of Anchorage by car, has been wiped off the map by tsunamis, and the town is entirely engulfed by fire' is the report received here from a disabled Alaska Standard tanker lying offshore in Resurrection Bay," the telephone report continued.

As the full impact of those awful words hit me, I groaned, "Oh, God, help them!"

Did I still have a family? Had our home been destroyed? What would happen to me if my folks had been killed? These questions and more played through my mind like a tape recorder, but I was powerless to do anything but pray.

I spent a sleepless night in front of the television and five anxious days listening to every news report and reading every newspaper. With every attempt to call home, I received the same reply: "I'm sorry! Your call cannot be completed due to the Alaska earthquake." Back at school, I checked the mail daily the instant it was distributed.

Then I heard that a minister friend of our family had lost his life when the dock where he had been working as a longshoreman collapsed in Valdez. My father had also supplemented his income as a longshoreman. My fear increased. When would I hear from my family? All I could do was trust God.

To be continued...

Have you ever had an experience like this? What sustained you?

No comments:

Post a Comment