My earliest memories of Ketchikan, Alaska were when I was about 6 0r 7 years old. My dad was stationed there after his assignment was done in Seward, Alaska. We lived in the Tongass Towers apartments, which was on the main street of the city. At the time, it was painted green with green trim. I’m not sure how many floors there were but at my age it might as well have been the Empire State Building.
One of my first memories was right after a snow storm had hit our area and in Alaska, no matter how much it snowed, school never closed. The apartment building was close enough that I could walk to my school, White Cliff Elementary. That morning, it was cold and the wind was still blowing which made it difficult to see so I was walking with my arms over my eyes while trying to walk against the wind. There was a corner that I had to negotiate to get across the street but every time I would approach the corner where the building ended, the wind would push me back behind the building. I kept trying…and trying…and trying…but I couldn’t get past that one corner. So, I decided to go back into the building but I couldn’t go back. The stairwell that I had used to get to the street was now locked. The only way back into the building was through the front entrance which was on the side where the wind was blowing. I was stuck! I tried again but as soon as I got past the protection of the building, the wind would gust and literally blow me over. After a couple more tries, the last time I hit the ground on my butt, I just sat and cried.
Tears were rolling down my face as I sat there staring at the ground. Then all of sudden, I notice a pair of black rubber boots in front of me. I look up and I see a man smiling at me. And I promise you that this is the truth, the man had white hair, black rimmed glasses and a white beard…inside I heard myself say “it’s Santa!” He smiled again, as if he had heard my thoughts and said “Can I help you get across the street?” I dried off my tears and leaped to my feet! “Yes! Please!” He took my hand and said, “Stay behind me until I tell you that it’s safe.” He takes me past the corner of the building, I could feel the wind blowing around him but I felt nothing because I was being sheltered from the wind by his large frame. I then heard him say, “Okay little one, you’re safe.” I say “Thank you!” and begin to run to school because I could hear the bell ring. I realize that I had just ran off without really saying anything more than “thank you” but when I looked back, the older gentleman was gone. I just shrugged my shoulders to myself and kept running to school.
Whenever I used to tell that story to our children, they would ask “Was that an angel or do you think it was Santa?” To this day, I say that it was an angel sent to help me…even if it was a man, he was an angel and hero to me.
Photo by Scott Eiler