Saturday, June 27, 2015

Our April 25 Earthquake Story--Part 1


OK, OK, I'm behind schedule and I know it!  It's about time I tell our earthquake story--right?!

(photo credit:

We're so thankful that we can tell our story.  So many people cannot.

I've worked on this post off and on, but seemed unable to finish 
(maybe I didn't want to remember), but now I'll do it.

Anyway, just to let you know, we are OK and keeping busy.  Keeping busy during a difficult time makes it a little easier to cope.  Yes, it's difficult.  Yes, it's also getting easier, but still difficult because we see so many people still in need and we still are having aftershocks.  I start at every unexpected sound.  There have been well over 300 aftershocks above 4 and over 20,000 under 4!  On top of that, landslides have started and more deaths have occurred.  It's too sad and also surreal.  I still think I'm going to wake up and tell Ramon, "You would NOT believe the dream I had!"

Before we came, we were told that Nepal was due for an earthquake.  Well, when I lived in Memphis, we were always being told that an earthquake was due.  So far, nada!  (Memphis friends--keeping my fingers crossed for you!)  Anyway, we went to an Earthquake Preparedness class hosted by the American Embassy soon after we arrived.  Did we follow their advice and keep a backpack with clothes and food in the hallway closet?  No!  We did occasionally buy canned food with a pop lid, like they advised us to, but always eventually ate it!  That's how it is, isn't it?!

Anyway, we do feel blessed with how the world has responded with help and support.  It's still needed and still quite necessary.  Thank you!  After the monsoon rains, it's going to get cold, so right now the emphasis is on getting shelter for those still sleeping under tents 
(and tarps if they have no tent).

Now I'll tell you the blessings!  It's good to remember that there were (and still are!) blessings!  One interesting thing is that at the beginning of April, it was announced that there would be bandhs off and on for three weeks in April.  That's when the roads are closed.  If you missed it, some years ago, I blogged about bandhs here:   Anyway, because of this possibility and the chance that we might not be able to go shopping, I shopped like a crazy woman and filled up our pantry.  Many people did this.  Then, the bandhs were mostly called off, but many of us had lots of food!  This turned out to be important later when the roads and stores/shops were closed after the earthquake!  Although for those whose houses collapsed on their food supplies, it was a different story.  This is why we are thankful for those who donated and for those who carried supplies (and still are) to those folks.

Here are some of the young people in our church and their friends making food packages 
to carry out to the villagers without food.

Another thing that might sound silly is that right before the earthquake I went to the beauty shop for a much needed haircut.  I had been putting it off.  I'm so glad I went though, because it would be some time before I would be able to go!  Who knew that that would turn out to be a blessing?!

Another huge blessing which you've probably heard, was that the earthquake was on a Saturday, so children all over the country were with their parents and not in school!  On any other day, the children would have been in school and many people would have been in their offices.  Nepal has a six day work/school week with Saturday being the only day of the "weekend."  That this happened on Saturday was surely a blessing!

This is evident when you look at the pictures of the elementary school on our hospital's campus, which at first glance seemed undamaged.  However, upon second glance, we see that is not so.  Every classroom had ceiling tiles on the floor.  They are very heavy.  I could barely lift one up.  This is right where the Kindergarten students line up to go out of their room.  Imagine if they had been there!

Here is where the little ones sit to sing and take their naps.  Imagine!  Thank you Lord!

Here they are in that same location waving to me and saying, "Hi!" on the first day of this 
new school year (April 19, 2015) for the Nepali new year of 2072.

It's scary it is to think what would have happened (here and around the country) 
if this had happened on a school day.

So now to our experiences on "the day" we will always remember.  It started out like any other spring day.  It was a little cloudy, and had in fact been raining now and then, which was worrying some farmers as it was a little too early for the monsoon.  People were out in their fields working, 
which meant there were less people inside!

Ramon and I had had a lovely Sabbath School class with the little ones.  Here is a picture of the class taken two weeks post-earthquake and just a few days before the second one!

After Sabbath School, Ramon went to prepare himself for an upcoming C-section, and I went to the church foyer with some books for the little ones to look at during church.

Right in front of us was the door into the church and to the right was the door to the outside.

To the left of the above picture is the front of the church (our church is now in a different location and yes, they were preparing to move during this time, but hadn't moved yet obviously) and you will see there is another door in the front right, which was another blessing.

OK, so all the preliminaries were over and the people settled in to enjoy a sermon by a visitor.
Suddenly there was a loud noise and a shaking.
It was like a loud boom and creaking and it got louder and the shaking got worse.
Everyone looked at each other for that split second.  "OH NO!"
The noise and shaking intensified and there was no doubt as to what was happening.
I could see that door frame moving from side to side.  I thought the ceiling would fall on us!
Mothers grabbed their children and everyone rushed outside.
(I found out later that those farthest from the doors got under their chairs until the initial
rolling ended and then they rushed outside before the next rolling started.)
We looked at each other and grabbed each other while the earth trembled,
shook, rattled and rolled under our feet.  We were all in the same boat, so we hugged
whoever was closet to us whether we knew them or not.

In my mind I didn't have time to think, but it seemed so unreal, yet it was real.
If I thought anything at all it was just "OH NO!  This isn't real."

I had the same thoughts many years ago when I was hit by an 18-wheeler semi-truck
and he pushed my car for awhile until I rolled upside down through the oncoming traffic!
"OH NO!  This isn't real."  But that's another story!

The shaking stopped for a second and I ran back inside the building (yes, I did!),
picked up my books like a mad woman and ran back outside.

Ramon called me and said, "Where are you?" and I answered, "I'm walking with everyone to the back of the hosp..." and we were cut off!  I didn't have any idea what was happening with him for some time.  You can imagine how difficult that was.  All I could do was pray.  The phones didn't work for some time and were off and on for several days actually.

I continued walking with everyone to the back of the hospital where there is an area of flat land.

 (You may recognize some of the pictures that have been posted on the hospital's blog.)

Everyone was still holding hands with each other and hugging each other.
"Are you alright?"  "Are you alright?"  Many people were crying.

The ground kept "booming" and shaking.  There was a collective shout from everyone each time.
Injured people started arriving in a steady stream and triage commenced.

Lots of people ran into the hospital and helped bring out patients and mattresses.

Nepalese army soldiers arrived and immediately started helping where needed.

I tried to stay out of the way.  Sometimes I even had to jump to get out of the way.  Many ladies and girls, many crying, came up to me, hugged me, held my hands and asked me to pray with them.  They didn't know who I was but they knew I would pray with them.

I noticed a pregnant girl sitting by herself, hugging herself and crying.  I went over to her
and she grabbed me and pulled me to sit with her.  We hugged each other during each aftershock and
held hands in between.  She spoke a little English and I discovered that her husband was working
in the west of Nepal and her parents were in Kathmandu.  With the phones down, she didn't know
how any of them were.  She was trembling and I was glad to be of some comfort to her. 

After about an hour, those of us sitting where we were, were asked to go down to another
flat area and make room for more tarps and mattresses as the patients kept coming.

We headed down to this area:

I spent most of this time continuing to hug and pray with ladies and girls who asked me to.
They continued coming to me and I was happy to pray with them and just hug those
who needed a hug and a shoulder to cry on.  Yes, the aftershocks continued.  (Remember I said earlier that we are still having them!)  I'm not ashamed to tell you that I cried myself now and then.
The uncertainty of what might happen was emotionally draining.

We had some visitors on campus that I also visited with, prayed with, and held hands with!
There were two ladies from Australia who sponsor an orphanage near Kathmandu and were with us for a few hours.  Two student nurses from Finland were also with us, as well as three travelers, two girls from Argentina and one from Spain.  They had been on a bus from Nagarkot, that beautiful village with the amazing views, to Kathmandu when the earthquake hit just as they were in the middle of Banepa!  The bus stopped, obviously, and someone told them to come to our campus where they would be as safe as possible.  They stayed with us for a few days, until they were able to be evacuated.  My previous post mentions Nagarkot--if you missed it, click here.  If you missed my posts about Nagarkot, and want to read them (and see the amazing pics--you can't take a bad picture there!), click "Nagarkot" where it says, "Labels" on the right side of the blog.

 No one knew anything about what was  happening anywhere.  Some people listened to the news on car radios and told us the little bit they could find out.  Patients were telling what was happening in Banepa, although I didn't find out what they said until later.  I realized that I would have to wait until I could call my mom and sister, whenever that would be (!), and have them tell us what
was happening, since I knew they'd be watching it on the news!

Anyway, I still didn't know where my husband was.  I kept scanning the crowd for him.  Couldn't see him!  Couldn't ask a busy doctor or nurse and take them away from what they were doing!

I ran up to the canteen (quickly, as it was scary to run up stairs) and took this shot.
No Ramon.  Boo!

On the way back down, I saw this sad sight.
When I saw these bloody gloves hurriedly tossed aside, with no time to be thrown away properly,
the part of my brain which still wanted to think, "This isn't real!" knew that it was real
and I felt so sad.  "Lord help us," was all I could say.

When did I find Ramon?
Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out!!!

Again, thanks to all of you who are supporting the relief efforts here
and thanks for all of your prayers!
Have a nice day and a lovely and blessed weekend!