March 27, 1964 is a date Kodiak residents Arlene Skinner and Marian Johnson will never forget.  

The 9.2 magnitude quake rocked the island but it was the tsunami that sent the town into a panic. 

"It was like an invisible giant and the house went boom, boom, boom," said Skinner who was with her two babies at the time.  

She was cooking fried chicken when the earthquake struck. 

"At one point the ground was so swollen that I remember looking at it and I was so afraid that is was going to crack open because I could just feel the pressure," Skinner said. "To this day, I don't know how I got outside, I just know when I came to I was holding both of my babies."

On the other side of Kodiak, Johnson was dropping her husband and son off at the airport. In the car were her three young children, which included a 6-month-old.

“I thought, ‘oh darn it’s not a flat; it's an earthquake,’” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Skinner raced back to their respective homes with their children. But that plan quickly changed.

"I turned on the radio and they said go to high ground," Johnson said. "It was probably stupid to try to come home when I lived by the ocean, but I wasn't thinking about tsunamis. I didn't know about tsunamis but I certainly do now."

Skinner says she was standing when all of a sudden she saw a high wall of water. 

"We couldn't get out; the water had already risen that fast,” Skinner said. "We had this big jolt again and people would start running out and running up the steps."

Johnson says she couldn't get off of her property because the bridge was gone and the first wave was already visibly approaching. 

"Drawers were thrown open, toilet water was removed," Johnson said. 

A second, higher wave did show up, prompting the two mothers to figure out a better way of escape.

"I told my husband that he should take my daughter and I will keep the baby and we will just meet at the top," said Skinner. 

"It was very calm, very quiet," said Johnson. "My 8-year-old said, ‘Mom, should I pray?’, and I said, ‘sure.’" 

The subsequent waves never made it to where Johnson and Skinner's families were, but 50 years later, the memories are still vivid and the fears remain.

In Kodiak, the tsunami warning system is part of everyday life. Johnson says when she hears them every Wednesday she thinks about leaving immediately.  

Skinner agrees. 

"If I was in an area that didn't have a high bank, I would start getting my anxiety up,” she said."My chest would get tight, I'd want to go."

There were 19 people on islands in the Kodiak region killed that day, and memories haunt many who survived.

"We are just very lucky to be alive and to be safe," Johnson said.