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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Three Days After Disaster Struck

28 April 2015

How do I even begin to describe what Brandon and I experienced the day the earthquake hit? I've already been interviewed three times about it and after each interview I stop and think, I wish there was a way to really explain the fear we experienced, the helplessness we felt as we stood in terror on the mountain while the earth below and above us tossed and turned.

We stood frozen, for a moment listening to what sounded like thunder and then an avalanche, grow nearer; louder and louder it became until we felt the trembling. Having never felt this before I was confused. What is happening? I clench on to Brandon and he pulls us away from the side of the shear cliff above, putting us in a position to dodge any rocks or debris that might fall. "I think it's an earthquake," he said.

We look around and watch as the village people run out of their huts, cheering and jumping around as if they are celebrating. I was more and more confused. Should I not be worried? Everyone seems to think this is normal, something to be excited about. Until all grew quiet after the earth continued to shake violently. Then we knew, this was something we had no control over and all we could do was stay alert and hope for the best. The churning continued for more than a minute, I squeeze Brandon, and watch, as the huts shake back and forth, the tin roofs bounce up and down, and the trees and rocks vibrate all around us. I was scared.

Finally, it was over, or so we thought. We were so close to being done with our trek, I just wanted to be back civilization. Little did I know, we were actually in one of the safest places we could have been. We continued walking on the trail and about 10 minutes later we felt it again. At this point, I already had time to contemplate what had just happened, and I was even more scared the second time around. On we pushed, to get out of the mountains as we felt the tremors come and go. All smaller than the first but none the less scary.

We made it down the mountain, (5 hours later) and found a bus to take us to Pokhara, where we would be able to relax after nearly a month in the mountains.

Still not realizing the magnitude of what happened, we met a local who told us the earthquake was felt across the country. It was a 7.9 on the Richter scale and thousands are thought to have died in Kathmandu and in the mountains.
One of the Historic Dubar Square, Kathmandu sites that has now been destroyed

With the combination of being exhausted from trekking and the shock of the earthquake we didn't think this was something that would make it back to the US (we must have been delirious.) We decided it wasn't important to call the family and worry them because they probably hadn't even heard about the earthquake (sorry Mom and Dad).

It wasn't until we were eating dinner and we heard a group next to us talking about their family thinking they didn't make it and we knew we needed to make contact home. I pulled my phone out and realized I had it on airport mode this whole time. When I turned it on I had dozens of texts come through. I called my sister and she answered, bawling. So glad to hear from me; that I was alive, I was safe, and I was talking to her. At this point we still hadn't seen any news-- she definitely knew more than me because I remember saying "what are you crying about?" I understand now, Sarah. <3 She explained to me that my brother had been on the phone with the Embassy all morning trying to find out information. Krista, my sister in law had called me over and over but could never get through (hence airplane mode), and both my family and Brandon's were on the phone with each other just hoping that someone had made contact with us.

That evening we heard from the locals that another tremor was "scheduled" to occur around midnight. We decided it was best to stay up, but nothing happened and we tucked ourselves into bed after what seemed like the longest day of my life.

Around 5am Brandon jumped out of bed, grabbed me and we were out the door, along with everyone else in the city. The aftershock everyone thought would happen at midnight came late. It was powerful again, shaking our hotel window and walls violently. Thankfully no damage to the city of Pokhara was done, but unfortunately the same could not be said for the city of Kathmandu. For the second time, buildings toppled, people were buried, lives were lost and it still wasn't over. That afternoon another large aftershock occurred, this time 6.4 magnitude and more disaster. For the next day to come Brandon and I would be on edge at any tremble or loud noise we would hear, jumping out of our seats at restaurants, and running out of shops-- we were not alone.

Overall, I have felt a total of 15 - 20 small aftershocks, but it doesn't get any easier. I wake up in the middle of the night feeling the tremble and wondering if I should run outside or not. From what we've heard the worst is over, but I will forever remember the day(s) the earth shook below.

1 comment:

  1. Your story reminds me of when we were at the Boston Marathon during the bombings. I was the furthest away (about 3 blocks), but the rest of my family was within a block or two of where the bombs went off. Police and ambulance sirens haunted for for quite some time. SO thankful you guys are okay.