Earthquake 1964

     It was a sleepy, snowy day that had already been far too long.  It was 1964.  And it was Friday.

     The snow that had been falling for two days finally did let up, and Lowell Thomas Jr., left for the airport.  As an Alaska state senator, he had business in Fairbanks.

     His wife, Tay, and the children—Ann, eight, and David, six—waved good-bye and closed the door quickly because it was still below freezing outside.  At about five o’clock, because Anne had a headache, they went upstairs to rest and watch TV, and they took off their shoes so they could sit on the beds.

     About a half an hour later Tay heard a rumbling sound.  She had often heard guns firing at a nearby Army base, but this was not the rumbling of guns!

     She shouted “Earthquake!” and jumped off the bed, grabbing Anne and calling to David across the hall.  They had reached the front door when the house began to shake. And as they ran out into the snow, David was crying “mommy, I’m in bare feet!”

     The earth was jolting back and forth with unbelievable force, and they were flung violently to the ground.  The hallway they had just run through was split in two.  They heard the sounds of crashing glass and splintering wood.  A tree crashed to the ground.  Their garage collapsed to the ground.

     Tay Thomas describes what happened.  She says the earth began breaking up and buckling all about them. Suddenly between her and Anne a great crack opened in the snow.  She stared in disbelief as the trench widened, apparently bottomless, separating her from her children.  She grabbed the hand Anne reached out to her and was able to pull her across the chasm.

     They were left she says, on a wildly bucking slab of earth.  Suddenly it tilted sharply, and they had to hang on to keep from slipping into a yawning crevasse.  The earth seemed to be rising just ahead of them.  She had the weird feeling that they were riding backward on a monstrous Ferris wheel, going down, down toward the water.  Their house had stood on a high bluff over-looking Cook Inlet.  But now the entire face of the bluff had fallen to sea level.  A few feet away, at the water’s edge, lay the roof of their house.

     I’m using her words to describe it.  She says all she could think of was that the water would rise as earth tumbled into it and they would be trapped.  The cliffs above them were sheer, with great sections of sand and clay still falling.  They had to find a way up that cliff, but the children were too frightened to walk.  They kept crying, “We’ll die!  We’ll Die!”

     In that desperate situation she looked up at the sky and silently cried out,  “Jesus, where are You?  I thought You’d be with us at the end!”  And suddenly she felt a tremendous peace.  She knew that He was with her—not up in the sky somewhere, but right beside her.

     At that moment a man appeared above them.  They called for help, and he shouted that he would look for a rope.  Then six or eight men appeared at the top of the cliff.  One of them, a stranger, climbed down.  The children threw their arms around him.  He took off his black wool jacket, and put it around Anne, boosted David into his arms, and led them all back up along the rope.

     At the top of the cliff Tay Thomas turned to thank their rescuer, he had disappeared.  They were never able to learn his identity.  Had God sent an angel in answer to a trusting prayer?  Was eight –year-old Anne wearing a jacket that belonged to an angel?

      We cannot know for sure.  But there’s a familiar pattern here.  And of one thing we can be certain.  It’s the sort of kindness angels like to do!

     From a pen dipped in inspiration we read: “Not until the providences of God are seen in the light of eternity shall we understand what we owe to the care and interposition of His angels.”

     But we worship a God who doesn’t want to wait.  He shares a few of His secrets now!