This image shows the main part of the Chenega village site, Chenega Cove in western Prince William Sound after the earthquake on March 27, 1964. Pilings in the ground mark the former locations of homes that were swept away by the waves. The schoolhouse on high ground was undamaged.

Native History: Earthquake Devastates Native Village of Chenega

Alysa Landry

In other areas, landslides destroyed homes and disrupted lives. Miles of coastal property collapsed into the sea and Alaska’s landscape was permanently changed. Aftershocks as high as 6.0 on the Richter scale continued to hit for several days afterward.

Rescue workers comb through a demolished home in the Turnagain area of Anchorage following the Alaska Earthquake. (Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Residents of Chenega were preparing for dinner when the earthquake struck. Waves as high as 100 feet then crashed onto the shore, sending the people running for the schoolhouse on top of the hill. The school was the only building to survive the tsunami.

Margaret Borodkin was 35 when the earthquake hit. In her recollection of the disaster, recorded in The Day That Cries Forever, Borodkin said she sought shelter in a doorway but something fell on her and pinned her to the floor.

“After a few minutes I began to hear a loud sound,” she writes. “I couldn’t see because I was trapped on the floor, but it must have been the giant tidal wave. When it struck the house, it was as if a bomb blew up. Everything was crashing and rolling and smashing.”

Borodkin lost consciousness and was washed into the bay. When she woke up, she was floating on what she believed to be the wall of a house.

“One minute I was in my house and the next thing I know I was floating on the sea,” she writes.

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