Hey, it's Michael this week, the Daily is revisiting our favorite episodes of the year, listening back and hearing what's happened in the time since they first ran. Today, Genie Chance and the great Alaska earthquake. It's Thursday, December 31st. Well, I suppose you want to know where I was when this disaster took place, I was driving on my way home and I began to feel that the car I had just purchased was a lemon because the wheels appeared to be running off the car.
I managed to stop the car and I looked in stupefaction at the road about 10 feet ahead of me and saw the road break open. And then, like two big halves of a huge sandwich, start moving like scissors back and forth, one half moving in one direction, the other half moving in the other direction. And all the time while watching the road, it suddenly dawned on me that this was not an ordinary disaster, that it was perhaps one of the greatest disasters to hit North America.
I kept thinking what Alaskans do now while Alaskans do now.
There are moments when the world we take for granted instantaneously changes when reality is abruptly upended and the unimaginable overwhelms real life. We don't walk around thinking about that instability, but we know it's always there at random. And without warning, a kind of terrible magic can switch on and scramble our lives. You may know the feeling. In 1964, it happened to Anchorage, Alaska, and to a woman named Jenae Chance. From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro.
This is The Daily today, the great Alaska earthquake was the biggest earthquake to ever hit North America. John Moala, author of the book This Is Chance on the story of that disaster. And the voice that held the state together. It's Friday, May 22nd. Sunday, February 23, 1964, a month before the earthquake. Just before 1:00 p.m. on Friday, the deciding heat of the world championship sled dog races was about to start.
They have estimated the crowd as high as 12000 people in all of Anchorage, it seemed, had gathered downtown to watch.
And this was the one time of the year, the only time of the year we ever get that many people into Alaska's largest city. I think it's a wonderful thing.
The races were one of the longest running traditions in a community that didn't have a lot of traditions yet, something for the fledgling city to look forward to in the coldest, loneliest stretch of winter.
Yes, you are. Thanks to the city of Anchorage. We'll be back with more after this important method. Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964 was a blotch of Western civilization in the middle of emptiness, Alaska had only become the country's 49 state five years earlier, and it was often disregarded as a kind of free floating addendum to the rest of America.
But Anchorage was Alaska's biggest and proudest city, a community whose essential spirit, one visitor wrote, reached aggressively and greedily to grasp the future, impatient with any suggestion that such things take time to bear.
It was a modern day frontier town that imagined it was a metropolis. OK, back here with more straining to make itself real.
Here's the countdown. Nine oh three two, one, go. All right. OK, there we go. One o'clock. Dog making time. He fired. Well, to a real point, but 11 dogs riding up very nicely.
A local radio station KT and I was covering the races.
Could be up to 50 even. Let's get on a journey to an enclave.
Deani and through the broadcast to a part time reporter named Genie Chance, who just got in set up at a radio checkpoint at the top of Cordova Hill, a block and a half away from right as the sleds dashed by and running from the crowd.
Genie was relieved she'd made it in time.
She was the only woman covering the event for Katie and I and her bosses had given her a tough assignment, like she'd started the day at a spot at the beginning of the course.
But once she'd broadcast or play by play there, she had to scramble along a few miles of icy roads to this checkpoint, further along the route they come running before the dogs plowed by her again.
And he's getting up big. And sure, you can hear the people going down that hill.
But she made it because professionally, Jenae Chance was relentless and going got better.
She had to be. Genie is said to be the first female newscaster in Alaska at 37 years old. She was strikingly beautiful with short, wavy blond hair and high cut bangs. She grew up in a small town in Texas where she'd met her husband, Winston, and had three kids there. Winston sold used cars, but he wasn't particularly good at it even when he did manage to land a commission. He had a habit of blowing it on a steak dinner and drinks before he got home.
The financial strain started to destabilize their marriage, and the pressure fell on Jeannie to hold the family together and make their precarious life feel safe. We're not poor, she tell our children. We just don't have any money. At the time, a wave of young Texans was decamping for jobs in Alaska, and Winston was convinced it was a land of opportunity where anyone willing to work could wind up flush. But Genie hesitated, Alaska didn't sound like a fun adventure to her, it sounded desolate and dreadful, like moving to the moon.
Then again, if life didn't improve for her and Winston in Anchorage, maybe divorce might feel a little more feasible. There should be at the edge of the world. Nobody would have to know. But Alaska didn't solve Winston's troubles with money, and before long, the chance family was unable to pay the rent, Winston said not to worry. He'd sell some cars soon. Jeannie worried. And this is what a good wife is supposed to do. She wrote, Just wait at home for her man to bring money in to pay the bills and feed the family if other wives do it all the time.
Why can't I learn to relax and let it happen? She went to Winston weeping one day, she said, and he told her, well, if you're so worried about paying the rent, why are you sitting on your fat fanny? Get out there and get a job. Jeannie was speechless. Two weeks later, she got herself hired at Katie and I coming up, called over here.
Let's go out. Jeannie can get back out here.
If you are looking at the time women broadcasters typically covered fashion and homemaking are hosted on their recipe swaps. But in her year and a half at the station, Jeannie had forged a role for herself as an industrious roving reporter. She covered crime in the courts and city hall. She reported from crab boats and missile sites, burning buildings and Inuit villages and sled dog races.
And right on his heels is Lumberg, working real well during the final stretch of the race.
Jeannie lost herself in the excitement, a little dog and man a lot and just started shouting Oh and yes, into her microphone as the mushers passed. And oh, and another Katie and I broadcaster appeared to make a slightly off color crack about her breathlessness on the air.
You're breathless Genie!
Well, Jeanie tried to be gracious and stoic to do what was expected of her without complaint. She figured this was the only way to diffuse the discomfort of the men around her, although that helped make it possible for me to be a part of it.
At the end of the sled dog races that afternoon, she'd sign off by thanking not only all the canine listeners and spectators, but her male co-workers to thank you for no benefit for me for allowing it to go to be broadcast.
And she was also sure to thank her husband, Winston, and not only for his permission. Now back to thank for joining with a fine job. And here's Mike.
Sometimes the future falls open without a warning. The earthquake, when it came, would knock people's lives off kilter so brutally and abruptly that its power seemed to reverberate forever.
Some people, like Jeannie, would find their lives oriented differently in its aftermath.
Others would find their entire world view changed.
More than half a century later, an attorney in Anchorage would explain. Even now I can look at this solid ground out my window and know it's not permanent. It can change any time. It just moves. Everything moves. Anyway, this is through Jeannie was and where everything stood before what it stood on moved.
Friday, March 27th, 1964, the night of the earthquake, on the night of Good Friday 1964, I was writing a letter to a friend in Juno. Around 530 Jenae Chance sat at the typewriter in her bedroom, stealing some time alone before fixing dinner for her husband, Winston and their three children, eight year old Jan, 11 year old Albert and 13 year old Winston Jr. Erwin's, who just then appeared at her bedroom door.
My son went, came to me and said that he just had to get down to the bookstore.
He'd forgotten to buy a copy of the Red Cross life saving manual that he was supposed to bring to his swimming class the next morning.
And I said, please, for heaven's sakes, when you have to have something, don't wait until the last minute.
So Jeannie pulled on a pair of boots and a parka and headed out the window.
So I went and I got in the car and I was still in somewhat of an unhappy mood about having to make a last minute errand downtown at five thirty six.
Snow was falling as geni and winds headed downtown. The city was quiet as they approached the intersection of C Street and 9th. The traffic light turned red.
As I touched my break, the car began to bounce. The car started bucking. So I said, Oh, no, and we're just what's the matter? I said, I'll blow out and ingeniousness.
She'd blown a tire and then it got worse.
She gripped the wheel when she held on to his seat beside her for a moment, they bounce violently without speaking a word. Nothing was said between us for a few minutes and I said, you know, it's not a blowout, it must be a hard win. And he said, boy, it's a win, all right. But the car bounced worse and worse. And I lowered my window and I heard the banging just kind of banging looked across on one corner of the intersection.
Cars parked in a line were slamming into one another and separating again like a grotesque accordion opening and closing. I saw down the street to my left two people holding on to each other, trying to stand up three feet from the world. And everything in it appeared to be convulsing Jeannie's eyes. We're seeing it, but her mind couldn't organize all this information into a coherent story. The car continued to bounce, and suddenly she watched the road roll away from the car and a crack.
It rolled as though some humpbacked shadow creature were surging under its surface, heading for town. Finally, Jeannie found a word that could fasten together this chaos in her mind. I said, Well, is this an earthquake going to get out? I say, Yeah. The great Alaska earthquake lasted four and a half minutes, it overwhelmed people the way the strongest emotions do. It was pure sensation coming on faster than the intellect ability to register it. It was amazing what details people noticed, the focal points their minds locked onto when the world went blurry.
On Fourth Avenue, a high school track star watched the window of a stationary store rattle and explode, and he stood there admiring the perfect hurtling form of the man who came leaping out of it. At Presbyterian Hospital, one man watched blood seeping into the hall from under a doorway like a scene in a horror movie. It took a second for him to realize that the hospital's blood bank had broken open and still. At the Giusti Penney department store, a 15 year old in the elevator with some friends watched a book that one of them had dropped, suddenly levitate off the floor.
And hang weightless in midair right in front of him for a split second, it was like they were in orbit. The elevator was falling. Jeanie's mind had already turned to reporting the news as soon as it stopped, I looked up and I could see that the television tower was still standing.
She assumed her station would have power back on soon and at the six o'clock news broadcast would go on as usual. That meant she had less than 20 minutes to put together a story.
I knew we had no power by the fact that the traffic lights went out, but I knew that our very ingenious engineers would have us on the air very shortly.
So Jeannie sped to the public safety building or the police and fire departments were headquartered to round up some details for a quick report.
As I dialed in, I saw that all of their huge heavy filing cabinets and desks were thrown face down on the floor. And my son went came running in the door and he yelled, Come quick. Penny is falling.
Standing in the doorway of the public safety building, they could see the brand new J.C. Penney department store. The building was a point of pride in Anchorage. Penney's was one of the first major chain retailers to believe in Alaska enough to build in the state.
But as I stood there and watched.
But now, as and winds watch through the flurrying snow, the big slabs of concrete walls silently break loose and start toward the ground.
A tremendous concrete panel from the exterior started to swing away from the building as though on a hinge, and it fell to the street with a roar that deafening roar with the facade peeled off.
Parts of the store were now open to the cold air, exposed like the rooms of a dollhouse.
And when looked at me and I saw a horror in his eyes. All at once, she registered the extent of the wreckage surrounding her. A voice said something about people buried in the rubble. A group of men came running down the street yelling, Fourth Avenue is gone, and behind them, Cheaney could see the roof of a familiar building resting on the street, jabbed into the pavement at an incomprehensible angle. Then was the first time that I thought the first thing I must do before I can go any further is get my family together and make sure everything is all right.
I wheeled out of there and headed home. Oh, before we got home, I could see the house was still standing. And I remember breathing out loud.
Thank God she pulled up. Jan and Albert shot out of the neighbor's house across the street windows, leapt out of the car and ran to his sister and brother.
I said Penneys has fallen down and there's more damage downtown and out, then pulled off from me and he looked at me very seriously and he said, I'm all right, don't worry about me. Go on and do your job.
All three chance children began to understand without being told that their mother would be leaving again.
Jenny is proud of how self-sufficient her kids had become, but whatever pride she felt was undercut by guilt, she knew her family was growing independent of her out of necessity because she wasn't around as much as other mothers and wives were. Down in the lower 48, the women's movement was underway, but Anchorage was fifteen hundred miles away from the rest of America and feminism wasn't a word Jeannie used. Her struggle to balance work and family felt like a problem unique to her, and isolated moments could trigger self-doubt.
At breakfast one morning, a few weeks earlier, the family was watching through the kitchen window as their neighbors scrape the ice off her husband's Cadillac before he left for work. This was the custom among many Anchorage wives, but in the chance of them, the roles were reversed. Winston warmed up the car for Jeannie now. Winston asked her, Honey, if I get you a Cadillac like that, would you scrape the ice off and warm it up yourself?
There must have been a tinge of disgruntlement in his voice because before Jeannie could answer, eight year old Gin interrupted to remind her father that he was actually very lucky. It's not everyone who gets to warm up the car for Jenae Chance.
It was funny but uncomfortable, and in hindsight, it might feel ominous, too, since after the earthquake, the more successful GenY became, the more Winston sees. It was nearly six o'clock, about 20 minutes since the quake, the last half hour of daylight, so I headed immediately back down to the downtown area, feel thoroughly confident we would be on the air in a very short time and I would have to have something to say.
And as headed back downtown, she kept her transistor radio tuned to Katie and I, hoping the station would be back on air in time for the hourly newscast. But so far, nothing, only static went on down toward planet.
Within minutes, she was back at J.C. Penney, got the car parked about out.
She parked and approached the store, but stopped short in front of a slab of something in the snow. She stared at it, mesmerized and repulsed, but couldn't place what it was. She remembered as a girl in Texas watching her father kill off his few remaining hogs after a snowstorm and hang their fleshless hindquarters from the rafters of the barn, this thing in the snow reminded me of that somehow. Finally, a man shouted an explanation to her. It was half a woman, he said he'd seen her and get struck by the falling debris.
Jenny moved on quickly. I went on over to Fourth Avenue to survey the damage there so that I could make a report, and I was horrified to discover that two whole blocked had simply fallen into a crack that had opened up and there was no straight onto them for two whole blocks.
Everything was wedged in a ragged chasm that had ripped open under the street.
Fourth Avenue has just collapsed. It's just collapsed. Soon, an aftershock struck the windows of a bank started popping, spraying glass across the sidewalk ahead of Jeannie, and she headed back to her car. Her transistor radio is still tuned to keep and I continue to broadcast static. It was snowing hard, the sun was setting the city going dark. No telling how many people left at home without heat, without power and without telephones.
Jeanie knew that the citizens of Anchorage were scattered around, cut off from each other. The electrical grid was down. Most phone lines were dead. There'd be no way to know exactly what had happened or how thoroughly their world had been jumbled.
I realized that if there's any way I can be of service, I've got to do it.
I heard the weird, strange of music coming over at United Nations, and I knew that our generation had gotten on the air, we were on the air some way because of the disaster.
We have just experienced an emergency condition which now exists on an announcer finally broke through.
I called in Jeannie called the station from the portable radio unit in her car, explaining that she was ready to make a report about the situation downtown.
It had become obvious that the earthquake struck Anchorage less than an hour ago was a major one. She spoke fast, taking sharp, quick breaths. The J.C. Penney building had two walls collapsed. However, believe it this time, everyone who was inside the building managed to escape safely. There is two block portion of North Avenue where the building just sunk into the ground. She was astonished later when people told her she sounded calm.
And I will keep you informed throughout the night. So stay tuned to your radio, check on your neighbors, see if they have transistor radios, if they don't ask where they could move in with you and share one more night. It seems like it's going to be a long, cold night for Anchorage. So batten down the hatches and stay tuned.
Kenny Jeni drove back to the public safety building where city officials were gathering.
She told the fire chief and police chief the key and I was on the air again that she had her mobile unit ready to go live there, were free to use her rig to broadcast announcements without much thought. The police chief immediately offloaded that job on GENI. She was going to be the one talking to Anchorage, he told. And any chance that they would have the capability is called sickeningly sweet.
She started reeling off the information she'd collected, taking uncertain stock of anchorages words.
There is apparently a great deal of damage just west of Elm Street there at 9th Avenue. Of course, we have received word from the state police that the Echo River Bridge is passable.
We had the two dogs owned by the oil company down there at Seward Fire.
She listed the locations of public shelters opening up for the displaced and started directing equipment and personnel around the city.
Anybody who has a spare chlorinate or they are in dire need of a coordinator there at the hospital. Please go to building seven oh olaine personnel report to work as soon as possible. Well, are we ready to go again? The plug got kicked in and we ran out of power, I thought maybe it was one of those little cameras.
I don't know how much damage is needed urgently to install the coordinator at the in this case, it is plaster of Paris. This is a message for Mr. Gray of the city manager swept through.
And if you're ordering her to put out a call for diesel fuel and fuel oil down and public health officials stood over her shoulder in order to make it pure, well, she repeated his instructions for purifying snow, for drinking water.
You want to add one teaspoon of household bleach to every five gallons of water? Be you're not to joke about it. But in also right now, that is the latest.
We understood that everyone would be trapped together for the foreseeable future in the snow, in the dark, with no electricity and below freezing temperatures. Under those circumstances, Schubert later, mass hysteria would have meant total destruction.
St. Lawrence later, we're happy to report, has been installed at Providence.
Essentially, she was doing her job. She was talking to Anchorage on the radio. As one man put it, Jenae Chance was telling everyone, you're not alone.
Any radio will fit. And where we are needed and do our best to carry on 24 hours a day, we have a message.
And that's how the first hours unfolded. But something else was happening that Friday night to the thread of this story that as time passed would come to feel almost like folklore, Mr. and Mrs. RW Fisher have lost their children.
They can't find them. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher are at the home of Charles Ball at the Public Safety Building.
Ordinary people who were separated from their children or other family members started stumbling up to Jeanie's counter and asking her for help. They were converging on GenY, desperate to know if somebody they loved was safe to find one another, to shout across their fractured city in the dark.
No vote would like to get a message, if at all possible, as to their whereabouts and if they are. All right. Michael Pfleger, who lives on Eighty Sixth Avenue, please come home. Mr. and Mrs. Baker are still here at the police headquarters at 16 feet, waiting for any word of their children. Their home went off the bluff. They're out there in an area where we understand a great deal of damage place. They hope that genie could amplify their voices with her own.
And then as the night went on, I managed to kill a Çöpler, maybe Sadler is fine, kind of saddlers out in the bush and left on a transistor radio. Mrs. Sadler is fine and make it to Walter Hart at Kaini Lee Hart is fine. We have another message to Bob Dylan which is all right. Jimmy Murphy and Bill Somervell at point. Hope your families are a OK absolute Maluka Your family is safe and at the home of Red Dog.
I also have received a report from a person who is monitoring for all the people one after another, calling in to report that they were OK. You could hear the potential death toll in the city gradually ticking down and with each small declaration of survival that aired, you could imagine a constellation of affirming flames slowly lighting the emptiness outside. Finally. I've been so involved trying to assess down here and the coordination, it was Jeanie's turn that I really hadn't stopped to think how worried and concerned my parents must be.
So if my friends in Fairbanks would take down a message for me and get the word to my family in Bonham, Texas, that the chance family is all right, place a collect call to judge A as Broadfoot BRL 80 F Otey at Barnum's Texas and tell him that the chance family is all right. I appreciate the information you can get. I know in my family many of. It was still dark early on Saturday morning when the telephone rang at the home of Judge and Mrs.
A.S. Broadfoot in Bonham, Texas. The caller explained that he just received a phone call from his son who lived in Fairbanks, there had been a terrible earthquake in Alaska.
His son told him, but believe it or not, he was listening to the Broadfoot daughter, Jenae Chance covering the disaster on the radio right now.
You just heard her ask for someone to phone her parents in Texas and tell them the chance family is all right. The phone rang again. This time, it was a perfect stranger, the military officer in Fairbanks calling collect, just like Jenae had instructed on the air, he was passing on the same message, the chance family.
It's all right. From then on, the phone rang constantly Jeanie's motherhood, and as soon as it sunk in that her daughter and grandchildren were safe, she said, I just looked down and bawled and a boo hoo of all time. Back in Anchorage, 13 hours after the quake hit, Jeannie was still on the air. She'd been working straight through the night. And as the city went to sleep in the early hours of the morning, despite their power being out and their phone lines down, they'd been connected to one another once again.
Samantha Fox dreams of turning her urban farm into a school. To do that, she needs to create a secure financial plan.
It's called growing a business for a reason. Planning sees it through one phase of the business and watching that grow.
Learn how MassMutual help Samantha plan for her future at NY Times dot com slash MassMutual and Samantha Forbes. I'm the owner of Mother Slyness Urban Farm. I'm a farmer, beekeeper, entrepreneur and educator.
Experience New York Times reporting with exceptional closeness in collaboration with Facebook. Augmented reality journalism from the New York Times can help you explore complex topics in an interactive way. New Instagram Effect's lets you visualize air pollution become a suffragette in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of women's right to vote and more. Check out our R journalism by visiting the effects tab on The New York Times, his Instagram page. Saturday, March 20th, 1964, the day after the earthquake.
We're coming in on an approach now is kind of like the surface of the moon. Early that morning, as news of the great Alaska earthquake filtered into the outside world, word reached a small team of sociologists at the Disaster Research Center at Ohio State University. It was a brand new institute funded by the Department of Defense to send social scientists as quickly as possible to wherever disaster struck. Lying in the of the Cold War was escalating, and the military was desperate to prepare America for the possibility of nuclear war.
One of its presiding assumptions was that a bomb dropped on the United States wouldn't just cause physical destruction, but pandemonium, lawlessness and violence among the survivors to the government needed to get a handle on how to manage that chaos. And they'd locked on to natural disasters as realistic proxies. Each community hit by an earthquake, hurricane or flood would be like a laboratory, a full scale simulation in which a team of sociologists could scrutinize that breakdown of society in advance.
Take my breath away. It's hard to describe it now. The sociologist in Ohio, we're hearing rumors that downtown Anchorage had been swallowed in a ball of fire. The trauma and confusion would be horrific. The entire force has already been wiped out. Professionally speaking, it was too good to be true, to be able to believe, believe. If you can't, you can't hardly believe it.
They roused me out of bed. One of their grad students said I threw on my duds and I was off to the airport in an hour and a half. But when the disaster researchers started touching down and we'll be able to notify you where you will be able to go get rations and feed, they couldn't find the chaos they'd come to document.
So we are making arrangements at this time for civil defense and the military to supply the rations that can be carried through these public shelters. Thank you, you. The sociologist learn, for example, that when Presbyterian Hospital started filling with gas after the quake, Boy Scouts had been distributing phone books in the neighborhood, helped walk all the hospital's patients down three or four flights of stairs, and an armada of taxis and other civilian drivers pulled up outside to evacuate everyone to a second hospital across town.
We are still having a number of people coming in and offering their services here in the public safety building. I believe everything is pretty well under control.
And outside the crumbling J.C. Penney building, bystanders rushed to dig people out and work together to tow away a huge section of the fallen concrete facade, then extract a woman who'd been crushed beneath it and her station wagon.
It was very heartwarming, of course, to see the way these family did get back together because quite a few of them were everywhere.
In Anchorage, clusters of ordinary people had gone straight to work, spontaneously teaming up and switching on like a kind of civic immune response. They just started solving whatever problems they saw in front of them and often surprised themselves by how capable they were getting the job done. Jeannie was one of those people.
All military and civilian personnel are giving a terrific effort right now on an evaluation.
One man told the sociologists everybody jumped right in. Everybody was trying to do a little bit of everything for everybody. Since then, an entire field of sociology has documented the same phenomenon in disasters around the world, and eventually two founders of the Disaster Research Center would theorize about why why disasters seem to bring out the best in people. In ordinary life, they wrote, we suffer alone, any struggle, any pain winds up isolating us from other people or even making us resentful of everybody else who seems to somehow have it easier.
But in a disaster, an entire community suffers together trauma and even death, the stuff that we suppress in daily life spills out as a public phenomenon for everyone to see.
The present becomes all consuming. The past and the future fall away. And all those who share in the experience, the researchers wrote, are brought together in a very powerful psychological sense. And something else happens. When everything gets scrambled, our assumptions about each other and ourselves get scrambled to, as another sociologist put it, the instant disaster strikes. Life becomes like molten metal. It enters a state of flux from which it must reset upon a principle, a creed or purpose.
This shaken, perhaps violently out of rut and routine. What he's really saying is in catastrophe, there's an opportunity for transformation. Jeannie finally stepped away from her microphone at three o'clock on Saturday, but she was back two hours later claiming to have taken a nap. Journalists were descending on Anchorage by then, and Jeannie spoke with one group from Europe and was taken aback when they instantly recognized her name. Oh, yes, they told her. We've heard you on the radio.
Her voice had traveled around the world, spraying out of Anchorage on an array of convoluted path.
All electric grids go to building seven hundred immediately.
One originated at Canine's sister station in Fairbanks, which also relayed that signal to a radio station in Juneau.
Scheidler is fine.
Kind of sad that a man in Juneau telephoned a radio station in Seattle and seemed to simply hold his phone up to the radio and let the broadcast play high time.
The announcer in Seattle threw that call onto his own airwaves. The sound, relayed and relayed and relayed again, was thin, distant and hissing.
But there was GenY unmistakably churning through personal messages from Alaskans separated from their loved ones.
She later wrote to an editor in London, just a little old housewife and mother helping out with the family finances being heard around the world. How crazy can this world be without realizing it? Jeannie had become famous.
The next week, as Alaska's legislature began putting together a plan to rebuild the state. The speaker of the House called the session to order by recognizing she got a standing ovation the following years. Anchorages, neighborhoods and businesses came back to life.
McCall's magazine. As you probably know, presents Golden Mike Awards.
Jeannie won a national award for women broadcasters. Lovely young lady who received the Golden Mike Award.
This Mrs. Jenae Chance honoring our coverage of the earthquake. Many people have asked me, how could you do it? I'm sure that any woman could do the same thing. It just so happened that it was my fave. As the story of the disaster started to be written, GenY became one of its recurring characters, the media called her the voice of Alaska, the in for the resourcefulness and composure of an entire state.
The quake had temporarily unraveled the fabric of society, and Jeannie had found the space to slip through. But then that fabric stitched together again and Jeannie didn't fit. She asked Kay and I for a raise, but was told that she was already making the highest salary for a woman. She quit the same day at home. Winston felt increasingly overshadowed by her. It turns out he'd been physically abusing Jeannie for years and now it got worse.
Eventually, she was through with it. She filed for divorce.
Soon, people around Anchorage were asking her if she'd ever thought about running for office and she'd spend the better part of the 70s in the Alaska state legislature, ramming through as much progressive legislation as she could, often while wearing a frosted blonde wig, short skirt and white go go boots on the chamber floor. As one of Jeannie's young aides put it to me, she was making up for lost time. January 8th, twenty, seventeen, fifty three years after the earthquake.
I'm sitting in a basement in Juneau, Alaska, surrounded by boxes of Jenae chances things, Jeannie's daughter Jan has kept them all here for years, not knowing what to do with them. There were 38 boxes in, all filled with reel to reel recordings of radio broadcasts, old diaries and letters and photographs, and I'd spend days in Jan's basement over the next couple of years looking through all of it at every document inside from a lock of genius baby hair to one of her campaign posters with a photo of her in a fur lined parka holding a radio microphone.
And that image of her might have seemed like the fairy tale ending to the story of Jeannie and the earthquake. Except I was starting to realize that this story is about the deceptiveness of such endings, the potential for circumstances that feel conclusive and stable to randomly come apart, because there were more boxes after that, lots of them. And in those, you lost your seat in the legislature to a slimy Californian transplant who ran a bare knuckled campaign, wins.
The son who'd been with her in the car the evening of the quake, was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1990 just shy of his fortieth birthday. And her other son, Al, was in and out of rehab and would die a few years after that. Then Jeanie's second husband died, and as soon as he was gone, Jenae was hit by dementia hard. That's why the boxes were there unopened geny and pack them up, planning to read her autobiography, but she never got the chance.
I'll be honest, it was pretty depressing, I'd never heard of Jenny Chance. I've never even heard of the great Alaska earthquake. And it was unsettling that something so consequential, the most powerful earthquake in North America, could recede so invisibly into history. To take in a stranger's entire life at that speed, blurred and compressed so dramatically, started to make me feel like maybe time itself was a slow moving natural disaster that eventually shakes everything apart. And from such a telescopic distance, it was impossible not to recognize the form that all our lives assume a forgettable blip, a meaningless straight line from birth to death.
At some point, sitting in that basement, I started picturing my own boxes and one of my own daughters basements one day, and then I imagine how many other sets of boxes are already out there and how many people hadn't left boxes at all. But and maybe this part's harder to explain. It doesn't feel depressing to me now. Because I also know that sealed inside this vulnerable little snow globe we call the prison, life feels anything but forgettable and meaningless and it recognizing the starkness of it all.
The course are straight line is taking liberates us into the present. It imbues life with immediacy just like a disaster does. And just like disaster, it gives us the chance to expand those boundaries the only way we can by reaching out, by connecting our lives to the lives of others, by touching our lines together like a net.
A day when your daughter came to me and they'll kick your relative in Anchorage, all right, you're my family and mom and the family and all right, all five of us are safe and none of us remain friends. Anyone who loves books knows there's never enough time for all the titles they want to read, and that's where Audible comes in. Audible has the world's largest collection of audio books from best selling mysteries, thrillers and memoirs to science, sci fi and motivation.
Audible also includes audible originals, stories, scripted shows and documentaries created exclusively for audio that you can't hear anywhere else. Try it free for 30 days. You'll get one audio book of your choice plus to select audible originals. Absolutely free get started at audible dot com. Slash the daily or text the daily to 500.
Dash five hundred. Hey, it's John Mouallem. In the episode, we heard about sociologists from the Disaster Research Center rushing up to Anchorage after the quake to start doing interviews and research, and that kind of research has expanded since then into an entire field of social science. One thing I've loved learning about it is how it reveals that even though disasters may seem like disruptive and chaotic events, so much of what happens after them usually follows very predictable patterns. So thinking about everything we've seen this year, I wanted to talk to someone to see whether she could make sense of what we've been living through.
Do you want to maybe just see who you are and what you do? I'm trying to walk Wauconda if I am the director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. And I'm a professor of sociology. The big question that's been on my mind was just how the research that your field has done in the last 50 some odd years and the story of the great Alaska quake maps or doesn't really map onto what we've been experiencing this year.
So I think, first of all, covid-19 might be unique in some ways, but we've seen some of the same things play out as we've seen in other disasters. So, for example, we know that warning messages and directions on protective actions must be clear, specific and consistent. To be effective, they must come from trusted sources. That's true when one talks about hurricane warnings, it's true when one gives information in the aftermath of an earthquake. And it was a huge challenge at the start of the pandemic.
That information was anything but clear, specific and consistent.
That was going to say, I mean, in terms of Anchorage, you know, the role that Jenae Chance was playing was to be one central source of information. I mean, there were others, but you didn't hear a lot of people losing trust in the sources of information.
Can you talk about how that kind of trust erodes over time in the sort of situation we've been in?
Yeah, I think we need to take a step back when thinking about that. So after a disaster like the nineteen sixty four earthquake, there's no doubt in people's minds that one needs to respond. You're reminded of that everywhere you look, but it's actually more difficult to reinforce during covid-19. It's everywhere, but it's nowhere. It's global. But the most devastating health impacts are behind closed doors in ICU where people are not even allowed to visit their loved ones.
We have three thousand deaths a day in the US, but those obituaries are dispersed around the nation, often not even mentioning the virus. So they become these unfathomable numbers instead of real people. Some people are doing fine, having birthday parties and gatherings going on about their business. Others know so many people who have died, they can't count them on one hand. And there are different sources of news that make it seem as though we are actually living two different realities.
So in this, there is no single Jenae chance.
I listen to the podcast and I think one of the striking segments is hearing chants, relay the messages, that this person is fine, that person is AOK of her reaching out to the airwaves for someone to notify her parents in Texas that the chants family was all right.
And honestly, it's easy to tear up while listening, knowing the anxiousness that one would feel in the shoes of those Alaskan's the relief of family hearing, the good news, the dread of not hearing any news.
And I think about the very protracted nature of the pandemic that we're in where for months families are on the edge of their seat, hoping their sister and father or spouse working at a hospital, treating patients with covid-19 if they are going to be OK. Of the person who's elderly, mother is an assisted living where cases have skyrocketed and being filled with worry for so many months. And that stress takes a considerable toll. And with the vaccine not yet widely available, we are not yet at that point where a genie chance can assure those family members that their loved ones are going to be OK.
And that's just something that really struck me. Tricia, thank you so much for talking this morning. My pleasure. Always happy to do so. Today's episode was produced by Austin Mitchell and Annie Brown with help from Daniel Guimet, US, The Chaturvedi and Nina Pontac. It was edited by Wendy Daw and Lisa Tobin and engineered by Alex Overington and Chris Wood. The deal is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lindsey Garrison.
Annie Brown, Claire Tennis. Skidder Hech Kowit. Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dor. Chris Wood. Jessica Chang, Stella Tan. Alexandra Lee Young. Lisa Chow. Eric Kripke. Mark George Luke Vandersloot Kelly Prime Sindhu. Yana Samandar MJ Davis Lyn Austin Mitchell, Nina Pontac, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guimet, Hans Butoh. Robert Jimmerson, Mike Benowa, Bianca Geva Liz Oberlin, Aasta Chaturvedi.
Caitlin Roberts, Michelle Banjar, Alix Spiegel, Leslie Davis, Diana Wynne, Marian Lozano and Soraya Shockley. Our theme music is by Jim Grundberg and Ben Lansberg of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, McKayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Jalani, Nora Keller, Sophia Mallott, Des Abakua, Lauren Kim, Erika Futterman and Shariya Sinaer. That's it for The Daily. I'm Michael Barbaro. Thank you for listening this year and happy New Year.
We'll see you on Monday after the holiday. Before the email notifications begin to pour in, let's give ourselves a good morning, a good morning is a moment to pause and ease into the day. It's a moment to run and chase the sunrise or to gently settle into your routine. A good morning is a moment to be present, to find clarity and to be grounded for the day ahead. Good days. Start with good mornings and good morning. Start with yackety yackety teasmade to do more than just taste good.