Yet, one month and one week after the quake, what I saw was VERY mild, really, compared to the sights, the sounds, and the smells of that day! I did not see the streets lined up with stacked up cadavers. I did not see that sobbing dad carrying his dead daughter’s body with desperation in his eyes which seemed to say “can someone change this?” I did not see nor hear crushed and trapped people begging for help, or the trapped man who lost his wife and six children pleading to be left to die. He eventually starved himself to death after his rescue. The stories I hear are horrendously surreal. One man chopped his father’s arm off in order to rescue him from under a wall post.
There are also odd stories of “unlucky” deaths and lucky escapes. This man flew in earlier that afternoon from overseas and instead of going home, met some friends at the Hotel Montana for a drink. The whole thing collapsed on top of him. One of his mates went out for a fag (cigarette for the non brits) and escaped without a scratch, I doubt he’ll be quitting anytime soon. Some of these stories in hindsight are actually funny to the people recounting them. And humour is exactly one of the elements that is helping people to cope.
Someone once said that laughter is the best medicine, according to what I am witnessing there is a lot of truth in this statement. The other night I sat around a table listening to stories of the quake recounted with humour, for a while there I did not get it but then it made sense. Laugh untill you cry and feel better!
Today I experienced my first tremor at 4:36 am. I felt the 4.7 shake and bolted out of the house grabbing, on my way out, my rucksack containing my camera and video equipment, my boots, and my trousers all of which I left by the bed ready for a quick get out. My brother who lived through the initial quake was faster out then me, but totally empty handed. As we stood outside waiting, we looked at each other and burst into laughter; two grown half naked men, one (me) attempting to get dressed while readying his equipment for the eventual crash, the other completely puzzled by the fact that I wasted a precious second grabbing my things.
After a while we did go back in to sleep but now I understand the effect of the quake on the psyche of those who survived it. Now I think hard before entering a big building. As I write the first draft of this copy I am sitting in the conference room of World Vision and I find myself thinking of all possible escape routes. I am checking the table out, making sure it is strong enough to hide under or if the cross beams look solid enough? I don’t appreciate it when people bang on doors causing the slightest of vibrations.
Yesterday Romi told me he will never sleep in a house for the rest of his life. I no longer find that odd, I understand!