Ask any Alaskan where they were at 8:29 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, and they can tell you - that's when the ground started shaking and it seemingly wouldn't end, as a 7.0 earthquake centered near Point MacKenzie in the Mat-Su Borough unleashed fury.
I was sitting at my desk in Palmer. I've lived in Alaska pretty much my whole life, and earthquakes are just part of the experience. But this was different. The shaking was so much more violent. As seconds seemed to turn into hours and the quake worsened, the thought of "Is this the one?" actually entered my mind. It was, simply put, terrifying. Finally, it was over, and cell phones started ringing as calls and texts checking on loved ones began.
My normal 30-minute drive home turned into 2 hours as power was out throughout the region and everyone was scurrying to get home. Radio reports were coming in, and it didn't sound good - roads were completely torn apart, on-ramps literally disappeared on major highways and there were major damages to schools. Arriving home, adrenaline flowing, I finally opened the door - and was met with a massive mess. Thankfully, there wasn't something structurally wrong with the house, but much like friends and neighbors around the region, the inside of the house was hit hard - anything waist high was now on the floor, and most of it was broken.
But you know what? You can clean up things, and you can get new dishes and mugs and picture frames. "Things" are replaceable, lives are not. And miraculously, there were no fatalities or major injuries in all of Southcentral Alaska. This was the biggest earthquake in 60 years, with widespread damage to major infrastructure. When faced with a knockout punch, Alaskans just rolled with the punches.
In the hours and days since, the Alaska Spirit has been on display and it makes me proud to live in this community. We've faced two major wildfires in the last 25 years, and those incidents along with this earthquake have shown a resiliency that has been remarkable to watch. In five days, much of the work to replace large parts of the Glenn Highway that were destroyed is already complete. As the only artery from the Mat-Su to Anchorage, having those repairs done quickly was imperative, but five days is almost unthinkable. Despite aftershocks that have reached 5.0, people have seemingly gotten their daily lives back in order.
Friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers get through the last week has been nothing short of amazing. We Alaskans have always considered ourselves a tough bunch, and the actions of the last week only reinforce that. We are Alaska Strong.