Michele Wiley: 'Pure Adrenaline Was Running Through My Body'

Posted by We'll Meet Again Editor on
Michele Wiley and Gretchen Young
PBS/Blink Films

Michele Wiley on her reunion with Gretchen and Dorothy Young.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the interviewee. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

PBS: We see you in front of the Youngs' former home where you survived the earthquake with Gretchen and her mother.

What was it like for you to be there again?

Michele Wiley: In all honesty, I have to say that day wasn't the first time that I had been back to the Young's old home since the earthquake. You see, my parents repaired and kept our family home just down the street a bit and they lived there until they both passed. I spent my childhood growing up on this street and during all those years I would have to say that as a very conservative estimate, I would estimate that I have walked, rode a bike or driven past Gretchen's old home a few thousand times.

 "I honestly had to recognize and admit that I could have easily died there on March 27, 1964."

The day we filmed in the driveway was very different for me than all those other times. And it was different because, for the first time in my life, I honestly had to recognize and admit that I could have easily died there on March 27, 1964. For over 54 years, I had blocked out and never thought about how close to death I came on that day.

PBS: At the Bellingham Public Library, you see Gretchen's marriage certificate and high school photos of her that you had never seen before. What was going through your mind seeing all of this for the first time?

Michele: Pure adrenaline was running through my body and in my mind I kept thinking "This is it, we are going to find Gretchen!" After that, the only concern I had was if Mrs. Young was still alive.

PBS: During your reunion you're surprised to see Gretchen's mother, Dorothy Young, waiting for you in their home. You were originally unsure if she would still be alive after all this time. What was this like for you?

Michele: When Mrs. Young came into view in Gretchen's home I said a silent prayer thanking the Lord above for granting my wish to see Mrs. Young again and to thank her for taking care of me during those very long 4-5 minutes.

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