‘It felt like a plane was crashing into the house’: Eagle River couple count themselves lucky after home collapses in earthquake
Nobody got as lucky Friday as Logan Cushman.
The Eagle River man was in bed when shockwaves from a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ripped directly through the neighborhood, instantly turning the split-level home he shares with husband Rick Walburn into a ranch.
“The only way I can describe it is it felt like a plane was crashing into the house,” Cushman said Sunday as he and Walburn surveyed the collapsed home on Dome Circle.
He said he wasn’t too concerned by the first jolt of the quake, but soon the house began to shake violently and the noise became a thunderous roar.
“When the house began to collapse it just went to a different level,” he said.
The couple haven’t been able to return to the home, which collapsed onto the garage and split in two at the living room. Still inside are Cushman’s car, as well as his wallet, the couple’s passports and almost all their possessions. They’re not sure when — or if — they’ll be able to get inside to salvage any of their stuff.
“The worst part is we don’t know what is going to happen,” said Walburn.
The couple have renters’ insurance, but don’t think it’ll come close to covering their loss. But all in all, they feel fortunate.
“There’s so many ways we’re lucky,” Walburn said.
Walburn is a vocalist and pianist for the 9th Army band. He had just finished doing PT on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson when the quake struck. He’d have been home that morning, but decided to shower at the gym instead of home like he usually does. He called his husband immediately after the quake. When Cushman told him “the house is sideways,” Walburn was incredulous.
“I thought he was being dramatic,” Walburn said.
After the house collapsed around him, Cushman grabbed a laptop and his terrier mix Dolly and started looking for a way out. The garage was completely blocked, as was the way to the exercise room — home to a brand-new treadmill with a total of three miles on it. He was finally able to squeeze out the front door with Dolly, but had to leave their golden retriever mix Sasha behind. The cat, Nora, was MIA.
The couple’s neighbor, Jason Sebring, sprang into action and helped get Sasha out of the house. Soon, Walburn arrived and managed to coax Nora out, too.
The couple is originally from South Carolina; they’ve been married since 2013 but only moved to Alaska in July. When Cushman’s family heard about his ordeal, they “freaked.”
“They were adamant about me coming and visiting them,” he said.
The couple plans to return to South Carolina to visit family soon, but in the meantime they’ve got to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, Cushman’s employer (he’s a shift supervisor at Starbucks) has offered to get them up in a hotel room, and friends put them up Friday and Saturday night.
There’s also a Facebook fundraiser set up by Cushman and a Gofundme.com fundraiser created by Crystal Sebring — the wife of the man who helped get the couple’s dog out of the damaged home.
“There’s just been an outpouring of emotion,” Cushman said. “Everybody has just been amazing.”
The couple said its rental company, RPM, has been extremely helpful by trying to help them find a new place and waiving any fees associated with moving.
For now they’re just thankful to have each other and their pets and that the quake didn’t do more damage.
“This was something I’ll definitely never forget,” Cushman said as he stared at a large crack in the driveway running directly to the home.
The couple have shown a few friends and co-workers the damage, but Walburn said he has a hard time looking at the collapsed house and wondering what might have happened if he’d decided to come home to shower.
“You can’t get it until you look at it,” he said. “But seeing it is scary every time.”
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.