National Geographic : 1964 Jul
Sudden tragedy etches the face of Mrs. Perry Mead (left), who lost two sons. Perry, aged 12, re-entered their crumbling house to rescue his baby brother; both perished. Their father, Dr. Mead, exemplifying Alaskan spirit, toiled day and night to save others despite his own grief. Mrs. Thomas and Anne seek to comfort their neighbor. I heard that all the homes along the Turn again bluff had fallen away. The relief was tremendous to hear reports from rescuers that all persons appeared to have escaped all but the two Mead children. I winced at the frequent pleas "Urgent to Dr. Mead... need ed immediately at Providence Hospital." Perry Mead is Alaska's only neurosurgeon, and he spent the next 24 hours as a truly he roic individual-going from bed to bed at the hospital tending to the needs of his pa tients, tears streaming down his face from the sorrow of losing his two children. It was not for another 24 hours that I final ly learned that the two I had seen, Penny and Paul, had been rescued at just about the same moment we were pulled up the bluff. The old est boy, 12-year-old Perry, had helped them out of the house and then returned to save his baby brother. Neither was seen again. I also learned for the first time, via the radio, of the tremendous damage suffered by the downtown area. We, living in Anchor age, watching it grow day by day, felt tre mendous pride in each large new building rising up into the sky, a dramatic symbol of our growth and progress. Now, one by one, I heard that many of our major buildings might have been severely damaged and would be closed until they could be inspected. 152 By midnight, communications were begin ning to filter in from communities around us, and we heard terrible stories of sea-wave de struction in Kodiak, Seward, and Valdez. It was an eternity to me before contact was re established with Fairbanks, and I heard with relief that it had felt merely a strong jolt. The broadcasters began to relay messages from local families to relatives in other Alas kan towns. There was no hope of getting any word out to the "Lower 48" yet. The Twiggses' phone was not working properly, and I could only listen to "Please tell my hus band John Smith that his wife and children are fine," and "To my mother, Mrs. James in Fairbanks, all is well." Word Comes of an Inbound Plane Locally, there was a continuous stream of "Tell John his father and mother are at the Stewarts," or "The Johnson family wants to know the whereabouts of daughter Ann." I heard many of our friends asking about family members, and, as the night wore on, reports poured in locating the lost. It was several hours later that I first heard that a Wien Airlines propjet was en route from Fairbanks to Anchorage, bringing doctors and supplies. I just knew that Lowell would be on that plane.