52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee,
the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.
Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Disasters!

I have, actually, experienced some pretty amazing disasters in my lifetime. Two of them, in particular, stand out.

On March 28, 1964, I was at Copalis Beach, Washington. My dad's friend and partner, Fred  Paligali (not sure of the spelling), and his family had an ocean-front cabin there. My parents let me go with them for the weekend. There was no telephone or radio. I'm not even sure there was electricity, but I was young and didn't notice such things.  I know there was coffee. :)

I loved running through the tall beach grass through the hot, dry sand to the cooler, moist sand near the water. It was a beautiful day. I had been to the ocean with this family before, and loved it.

On this particular day, I remember running toward the water. It was a low tide, so naturally, I had to run further from the cabin. I remember thinking it was a very low tide, because I ran through tide pools with sea creatures in them I didn't normally see in such numbers. For some reason, I have a very distinct memory of more starfish than I'd ever seen. I was very careful not to step on them. I also remember clearly that there was a straighter path to the bluff, or hillside to my right. I thought I must have run a mile!

Eventually, I reached the water. I played with Fred's children for some time before we tired and returned to the property nearer the cabin. It just seemed like it was a long way back. I was nine years old. 

In the middle of the night, I thought I heard the waves really close to the cabin. Because of the wide sand dune covered with tall grass between the sandy yard and the beach, we couldn't usually hear the water. I remember thinking it was odd.

When we were on our way home the next day, we got stopped on the road because a bridge had been washed out by a tidal wave during the night. We learned that there had been a huge earthquake in Alaska on the March 27th, Good Friday. It was 9.2 on the Richter Scale and had caused the tidal wave (we didn't know all of that, then). That was the reason the tide had been so low when I was out on the beach. So, I think I must have been on the beach as the water was being pulled out before the wave came in, probably on March 28th. Apparently, the water came to about 30 feet from the cabin, so I really did hear the water in the middle of the night! We were very lucky to have escaped any injury.

My parents, of course, were frantic! Fred tried to help me call them, but we had recently had our phone number changed, and I couldn't remember it. I can imagine my parents were greatly relieved when I was delivered safely to our home.

The other major disaster I experienced occurred many years later, in 1999, when I had the great opportunity to visit Turkey. Rob was building log homes in Turkey. He had an apartment we could use while visiting, so Sally, Harold and I flew over there for a few weeks.

On August 17th, an earthquake occurred at about 3:00 a.m. We were in our beds in the apartment in Göktürk, Turkey, north of Istanbul. The earthquake was centered near Izmit on the Asian side of Turkey. It had a magnitude of 7.6 and seemed like it lasted forever! You can read more about it here. We saw some of the destruction, though the western portion of Istanbul sustained little damage. The two days before, Sally, Harold and I had spent time at Akcacoka on the Black Sea. Our plan was to spend the night in Izmit before returning to Göktürk, but Sally just wanted 'to go home.' I am very, very grateful. Most of Izmit was decimated by the earthquake.

It was very sad to watch the reports of the devastation on television. When we visited Istanbul, hundreds of citizens had moved into the streets in fear that their homes would be destroyed in the aftershocks, or in another large earthquake.

These were amazing experiences; not the kind I want to repeat, or wish on anyone! I am very grateful to have survived them.

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