Erika Thompson, an elementary teacher from the community of Whittier, Alaska, talks about life in a small town with fewer than 300 residents who all live in one building in a video produced by Indie Alaska.
The residents live in Begisch Towers, former United States Army barracks that were converted into condos. A post office, bed and breakfast, church, medical clinic, grocery store, video store, police department, and city offices all are inside the building as well. The nearest big city is Anchorage—an hour-long drive accessible only by a tunnel that closes at 10:30 each night.
Thompson speaks about how school and home exist together as one unit for the students she teaches, and how the close surroundings create a family-like intimacy.
My first year or two, I had a hard time separating that I was a teacher and knowing sometimes what’s happening in some students’ lives. But I’ve always had the rule that no matter what time of day, what time of the night, if a student knocks at my door, I will always answer. You are always welcome. They know that.
While sharing one building may sound strange, Thompson emphasizes that Begisch Towers isn’t too different from any other apartment building.
What people don’t realize is that it’s just like an apartment building or it’s just like a high-rise condo in a large city. So for me, it’s not that strange. It’s where I grew up. I grew up in a big city; everybody lived in an apartment building, but not the entire town.