Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska
Wednesday, July 4, 1973
Today is Independence Day. We didn’t shoot any fireworks.” When I was growing up, fireworks were either something you watched being shot off at Disneyland (which was less than 10 miles from our house, so we could see them from my best friend’s roof — my father wouldn’t let us climb up on ours) or something you bought at a fireworks stand that my father set off at the end of our driveway on the Fourth. I think that’s the first Independence Day of my recollection where we didn’t have fireworks. No wonder I was disappointed.
We spent part of the day exploring Anchorage. The most interesting place we went was Earthquake Park. The Anchorage city parks website does not seem to have separate pages for each park, which is unfortunate. Anyway, on March 28, 1964, which happened to be Good Friday, the Anchorage area experienced the second most violent earthquake in recorded history. It was a 9.2 on the Richter scale, and destroyed a good deal of Anchorage and killed a number of people there and elsewhere, as well as causing tsunamis felt all the way down on the Pacific Northwest coast and damage across hundreds of square miles and to other communities in the region.
What I remember of our visit to the park, nine years after the quake, is that the ground was still spongy. It literally moved under your feet when you stepped on it. There was a trail, with signs telling about the earthquake and its aftermath, which we followed. The weather was cool enough that it almost felt like winter to me, who grew up in Southern California, with the wind whipping in off of Cook Inlet. Supposedly you can see Mt. McKinley from the park, but we’d had our good viewing luck already.
We were going to go to a museum that day as well (my diary doesn’t say which one), but it was closed because of the holiday. So we went back to my aunt’s and uncle’s house, and the rest of the day was spent being lazy. I took Gay for a walk, and my aunt took us for a tour of the base. And that was our second day in Anchorage.
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