STORIES OF COURAGE & BRAVERY IN ALASKA'S RUGGED COPPER RIVER VALLEY

The Copper Valley: Where Tragedy Strikes Often

The Copper Valley's Sudden Death Syndrome

Northcountry Communications. All Rights Reserved. 

Door at an impromptu "rescue" cabin along the Richardson Highway, entering the Copper Valley.

Through The Open Door
In the rest of America, "death" is seen as something unusual.

The world hurtles on in the big cities. And then death strikes.

Older people, mainly. Or people you didn't know. Celebrities with heroin addictions. Young athletes with undiagnosed heart problems. Or, if you did know the newly deceased, the cause of death is tragic and unfathomable: a car accident, or some form of terrible cancer.

In the rest of America, the aged know death best. They talk of their dwindling circle of friends and family, as the dead begin to outnumber the living.

But in the Copper Valley, death was not limited to people you don’t know, or to your great-grandfather -- or to that girl in your grade school who died when she was hit at the railroad crossing by a train when you were ten years old.

Copper Valley people lived a life in which death was constantly there. Waiting for you and your family and friends to make a small mistake. A little slip-up. A wrong decision that will deliver you through the door to the other side.



It's All Personal 
It was a world where tragedy struck often and where the reality of life and death was something everyone is aware of.

This was not a place where you idly watch  the ambulance go by and fret that a two-car pile up will result in getting home late for the movies. You knew that whoever would be picked up by the local EMT’s is either a friend, or a neighbor or somebody you have heard of or met.

This was a place where after a lifetime you could catalog a long list of untimely deaths.

The terrible drownings. The baby who slipped into the ice at the water hole at the creek. The neighbor’s son -- who fell out of the fishing boat and sank under the water. The car wrecks, taking multiple children from their families, in one blow -- making parents afraid to let their children double up in a car and go anywhere together, for fear of losing not just one child, but both. The motorcycle and snowmachine wrecks that left children and young people dead or damaged irreparably. The plane crashes. The cold-weather incidents that led to freezing to death, or losing fingers to frostbite.

And the alcohol-related disasters that, at their most terrible, killed newly initiated young people who choked in their own vomit.

The accidental death and injury rate in the Copper Valley of Alaska was stupefyingly high. And the causes so varied that Copper Valley people took note of all of them, mentally itemizing exactly what to avoid. It’s all “personal.”

Every tragedy involved  someone you know.  They built on one another. They formed a pile of danger. And they sucked all Copper River people back into a world that existed before modern life. Where danger surrounds you, and there is no safety net, other than you, your family and neighbors.

  Northcountry Communications. All Rights Reserved.



©2016, Northcountry Communications, Inc.  Gakona, Alaska 

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Write us at ncountry@gci.net! Bearfoot Travel Magazines/Copper River Country Journal, Gakona, Alaska

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