At 8:15 a.m. on Oct. 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the Philippines, its epicenter only eight miles from where Homer resident Berna Brown and her son, Nathaniel, were staying with family.
“About two hours after the incident, she called me,” said her husband, Malcolm Brown, who was in Homer when his wife called. “There were a lot of people screaming in the background. She said what had happened and that people were afraid of a tsunami and were running through the forest to a cemetery on high ground.”
Bridges collapsed. Roads disappeared. The house where Brown and her son had been staying was among the many structures destroyed by the quake.
“People were afraid to go into their houses,” said Malcolm Brown of the widespread destruction that shut off electrical power for eight days.
Fortunately, neither his wife nor son was injured.
Nathaniel, who has been trained as an EMT and spent the last summer learning to do masonry work, has found himself “at the right place at the right time,” said Brown. “He’s been very busy helping a lot of people.”
The mother and son team also have been hard at work helping provide food to those in need, dipping into the family’s finances to keep people fed.
“There’s two villages she’s involved with. One is a farming village and one is a fishing village. That’s the one where they went and bought food for more than 30 households,” said Brown of the canned fish and vegetables and other items they have been able to distribute.
With homes destroyed, “people are building shelters,” said Brown.
Receiving daily updates from his wife, Brown said the death toll is now more than 220 and aftershocks have numbered more than 600.
Television New Zealand reported Tuesday that country was providing $850,000 in humanitarian assistance to the estimated 370,000 people living in temporary shelters.
More than 1,000 volunteers from the Latter Day Saints Church in the Philippines are providing assistance. The Philippine Red Cross also is helping provide relief to earthquake victims.
Closer to home, Becky Pfeill, Brown’s sister and the owner of Timeless Toys, is donating 10 percent of Saturday’s proceeds to the Philippine Red Cross.
“Saturday is National Toy Store Day and all specialty toy stores do this event,” said Pfeill.
Part of the event includes stores adopting a service project. Last year, Pfeill supported Save the Children’s efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
Having heard the descriptions and seen Facebook photos of the effects of the Oct. 15 earthquake, Pfeill is aware of the terror experienced by those near the quake’s epicenter. She also is aware of the wave of support coming from around the world.
“It’s really amazing,” she said.
Berna and Nathaniel Brown are due to return to Alaska Nov. 18.
“I will be glad to have them home. Very glad,” said Brown.
Anyone who cannot make it to Timeless Toys on Saturday, but wants to contribute to the relief effort can visit redcross.org.ph/donate.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.