Residents of a remote village in southwest Alaska united on Friday night to light up a runway with their vehicles, enabling a medical plane to land safely.
The LifeMed Alaska medevac plane needed to pick up a child in Igiugig who required medical assistance and transport to a hospital in Anchorage, about 280 miles to the northeast.
The runway lights on Igiugig’s small airport could not be turned on due to vandalism. Ida Nelson, a tribal clerk and newsletter editor for the village council, jumped into action.
Nelson made 32 calls requesting assistance, and at least 20 residents ― many of whom were wearing pajamas ― showed up to light the runway with their vehicle headlights so the plane could land. Nelson was also there with her all-terrain vehicle.
“That’s pretty much almost every household in this village,” she told Alaska Public Media. “I was anxious and nervous and I was like, ‘So what if that was my baby [waiting for that] plane.’”
The girl requiring medical care was safely transported to Anchorage, and Nelson told CNN that Igiugig coming together was a matter of course.
“It’s an ordinary thing to happen here in such a small community,” she said. “And what I’m finding out is that it’s extraordinary to other people.”
A photo snapped by Nelson shows the vehicle headlights from the ground, while the LifeMed Alaska Facebook page shared a glimpse of the view from above, praising Igiugig for “a little ingenuity and a lot of determination.”
Ida Nelson Residents of Igiugig lit up the runway of the village’s small airport with their vehicles, enabling a medical assistance plane to land there last Friday night.
In 2015, the village received over $850,000 from the U.S. Administration for Native Americans for a Yup’ik language program aimed at keeping the linguistic culture of the region alive. And last month, the village was highlighted in an article by the coastal community publication Hakai Magazine as one of several towns that “not only care for their own [but] provide a sense of identity to the growing number of rural Alaskans who have relocated to urban areas.”
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