Alaska’s 7.0 earthquake rates a 10 in generosity, community

After 24 years living in Alaska, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the community’s reaction to a major earthquake jolting the city awake on November 30. But it’s still worth sharing since many readers are only exposed to what’s in national news media. The “Alaska Spirit” has developed from years of isolation where depending on each other was an absolute necessity. Today, however, most of the nearly 400,000 people who felt Friday’s jolt live in urban environments.

Almost immediately after the quake, people were checking in with each other and sharing stories online. They were also asking if people needed help, opening homes to anyone who couldn’t get home, meals to those who needed them, etc. Dozens stopped in stores and restaurants to help with cleanup so they could reopen.

But there was more. There was ingenuity. Giving. Support for each other. I’m including a few examples here, so you understand how #AlaskaStrong became a hashtag right after the quake.

  • At Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, the elevators were broken and food trays needed to be retrieved. Staff created a human chain down the stairs and passed trays from upper floors to the kitchen facilities downstairs. One quick thinking person actually shot video of the effort.

  • Water main breaks resulted in the city suggesting people boil their water out of an abundance of precaution.

  • Fred Meyer was among the retailers offering discounted bottled water.

  • Anchorage schools are closed all week for inspections, repairs and cleanup. In addition to parents needing to find childcare, the school district was also concerned about students needing food. For some children, school lunch is their only meal of the day. Earlier this week, the District announced students could receive free lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 10 locations through Friday. The grab-and-go food will be delivered via school bus and children are welcome to eat on the buses.

  • One restaurant is offering free mac and cheese for Anchorage School District kids who bring their parents in to dine this week. “We’re all in this together. Hang in there” is part of the social media post.

  • A fast food outlet strongly supported by the community offered lower priced milk shakes.

As is typical in an emergency like this, there were traffic jams throughout the city because panicked parents wanted to join their families and roads were closed. Also, some went to the store to stock up in case there were distribution issues. A radio DJ mentioned his child might not like it if he can’t get to the store to get milk after the show. Lots of people offered suggestions on which stores still had milk, where the traffic was lightest, and some even offered to bring an extra jug to him.

As the day (and hundreds of aftershocks) wore on, Alaska’s humor started to show as well as seen through this Christmas list:

"If you have family in Alaska and need Christmas ideas, we all need new dishes."

Together, Anchorage residents pulled through and worked together in an amazing way. I was personally very glad that all my friends were safe and most of their homes suffered very little damage. I am also grateful not to live through this (the Loma Prieta earthquake in ’89 was enough) but so proud of all the people who came together and helped each other, lifting spirits and joining together. #AlaskaStrong for sure.

A couple of final notes from friends:

  • My cupboards look like the toddler’s Tupperware drawer.

  • “So far my favorite mess to clean has been the fine layer of dill on everything in the kitchen.” Her son “dubbed it ‘dillpocalypse’ and “that has made me smile every time I find more.”

  • After being at work all day and coming home to a messy kitchen, “Really? If stuff is gonna break, it has to be molasses?”

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