It may sound strange, but one of the events that the inhabitants of Seward, Alaska are most fond of telling and explaining to outsiders is the near-total destruction of their ancient city.
At 5.36:1964 pm on Good Friday XNUMX, Alaska was hit by one of the biggest earthquakes on record.
The concussion hit 9.2 on the Richter scale. In addition to the direct destruction caused by the liquefaction of the soil, it gave rise to a tsunami with waves of 8 meters that submerged and devastated the small village located on an alluvial plain of the River Ressurection and forced its reconstruction at the somewhat sheltered foothills of Mount Marathon.
Mount Marathon Race: Seward's Queen and Crazy Race
Perhaps because of the ever-present fear of the catastrophe repeating itself and forcing them to flee up the mountain, city dwellers – like those in other parts of Alaska – value alternative athletics like few others and rave about the maddened queen race of the great state.
Once we arrived in downtown Seward, we realized how its participants are the great heroes of the local Independence Day.
You should not reach five avenues of the slender village. By mid-morning, the 4th already gathers a crowd of curious spectators who conquered the ideal places to appreciate the imminent parade. They are almost all equipped with binoculars and cameras with large telephoto lenses that point to the slope in front.
We scan the distant heights and see only small clouds of dust a few meters apart. But the Mount Marathon Race comes closer than we thought. Without warning, the front runners burst from a perpendicular street.
They win the final stretch staggering. Afterwards, they cross the finish line in a diving manner and surrender to the horizontal comfort of the asphalt.
For a few hours, hundreds of pursuers join them in states that are as or more pitiful. In such a way that, the last participants to finish the race, find themselves integrated in the now-arrived Fourth of July procession.
July 4: American Day, Seward Fashion, Alaska
Humble but as tidy as Seward in general, the parade shivers the fervent spectators with pride.
We see them dressed in stars and stripes and to wave flags with the inevitable pattern. They salute compatriots who follow on horseback, aboard jalopies, cars guided by bloated millionaires, in farm trucks and in firefighters' vehicles.
They catch treats thrown too hard by pesky kids and admire the choreographies of a group of teenage majorettes.
The Fourth of July Tribute to the Mount Marathon Race Runners
“We would like to ask your applause for these great Americans who sacrificed themselves in the name of the USA and sport” echoes the service presenter.
The last of the runners had recently completed the Marathon Race and several other latecomers were still receiving assistance at the medical station set up for whatever came and went.
Until then, the worst treatable cases consisted of feet in blood, onset of dehydration, and fainting from sheer exhaustion.
But in 2009, a more extreme incident was never remedied and the victim was even a doctor. At 49, Joe Hengy arrived from Minnesota excited to fulfill his old dream of running in the race.
During the race, already near the bottom of the hill, he slipped and rolled down the cliff. Three days later, he died from injuries to his head.
Later, one of his sons visited the city's rulers and asked them to put signs and barriers on the trail to prevent further tragedies from happening to runners unfamiliar with the mountain.
Plaques and signs were things that were never lacking at the fair that serves the celebration. Each Seward core group takes the opportunity to promote their ideals or products.
We ended up joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church that seduced us with the only miraculous American Pies on the premises, irresistible and sold for just one dollar.
William H. Seward: Alaska's American Negotiator and Hero
Only William H. Seward got a better deal. The city that adopted his surname and Alaska in general owe him the patriotism they celebrate each year on the fourth day of the seventh month.
A Russia it ruled Alaska until 1867. But internal conflicts and conflicts with indigenous tribes, increasingly excessive expenditures on transporting the skins they traded, maintaining the colony in general, and involvement in the Napoleonic wars razed its national treasure.
Desperate with the situation, the Tsar Alexander II decided to sell the territory to the United States. On the American side, Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, was the designated politician to lead the negotiations. He ended up buying it for 7.2 million dollars, less than two cents per acre.
At the time, the Republican party called the transaction "Seward's Madness". Thirteen years later, US prospectors discovered gold in the Gastineau Canal. This lode and others however found quickly yielded more than 150 million dollars.
Since then, Alaska's luck has never left the United States, and profits have continued to soar. For the Russians, only regret is left.
Seward's Fishing Fame
Alaska proves to be generous even when it comes to its marine fauna and nothing rewards an inveterate fisherman more than good fishing on Independence Day. It's already nine in the evening when we walk along the sea walkway of Ressurection Bay and come across a perfect example.
We are at the territorial extreme of capitalism but the holiday is not for everyone. Three dock workers hang specimens picked up by a group of Lower 48 in the port's window and swing.
When the composition is ready, an employee with a ZZ Top look invites them to take a picture, next to the fish and under a sign that leaves no room for doubt: “Caught At Seward, Alaska".
Seward, Alaska So Apart From The US
We continue to explore the low coast, still well lit by a sun that continues far above the horizon. By then, the celebration had moved to live music bars like the Seward Alehouse on the now-cleared 4th Avenue. But also to the gardens of countless houses, inevitably decorated with US flags.
Families and friends enjoy hearty barbecues washed down with Alaskan and other regional beers. In one of the backyards as we passed, the guests discussed the state of the nation aloud.
In another house, a girl who wears her best Sunday dress prefers to take refuge from adult conversations and plays with an inflatable Uncle Sam.
Neither these partying Alaskans nor the day show signs of fatigue. Instead, Seward's temporary population is reinforced by the arrival of visitors from the surrounding villages who flock to the verandas around the marina. Clocks advance to midnight but darkness never sets in.
In its place, the sky and water of the bay share the blue of a twilight that does not surrender.
The tone makes a perfect backdrop for the gaudy firework that follows and reanimates spectators for celebration. Alaska's summer is still halfway through. This boreal 4th of July will only end when it's over.