To be honest, I am still mentally and emotionally trying to process what happened Saturday. I think maybe typing it out will be somewhat therapeutic... maybe cathartic.
We were at church. We meet on Saturdays for church here because Sunday is a regular school and work day for the country. I had studied and prepared so hard for the lesson because I had to teach it bilingually. I was excited to have seven children in class. My husband was teaching in the sanctuary. His lesson? The judgment of God in the book of Genesis and how there was only one door on the ark... how the people were warned and did nothing. He had a first time visitor, too. (Her home was destroyed, and had she not have come to church... I hate to think what the results would have been.)
Church building before set up last July.
In my class, we were all sitting or kneeling in the floor. There are no tables or chairs in the classroom. I had my flannelgraph in full swing. Moses had approached the burning bush. I was struggling a little to correctly pronounce the word "bush" in Nepali. We giggled a little about it and I continued on.
A little messy after earthquake
Then I looked up at my daughter as she called out, "Mom!" I realized the building had begun moving.
Nothing to hide under.
Seven children I suddenly became responsible for to guide them through a life and death situation... and we were in a poorly constructed, village brick building on the second floor.
We moved to the next room. No where to hide. A plastic flimsy table and a couple of plastic patio chairs.
My 11 year old daughter grabbed the hands of a couple of the children and ducked down the best she could with them. She said she wasn't afraid. She just did what she could for the younger children.
I went against a wall with support beams and covered my 8 year old son and another young girl. As all this went on, I was not afraid. There was a calmness I cannot explain. And I began praying. I had been teaching in Nepali and my brain had not yet switched gears from Nepali back to English, so I prayed in Nepali.
Children screaming and crying. The quake rumbled on.
I looked up at the walls, and I remember seeing the walls bend and twist in ways my mind could not comprehend. I kept thinking, "Why aren't these walls falling on me? Walls shouldn't bend like that and not fall." It wasn't those walls protecting us. They had become our enemy. The building had become our enemy. But there was a Hand present. Though I couldn't see His hand, I saw the handiwork of my God holding up a building for us.
During the quake, mothers who were outside the church began running into the building to get their children. Fear had gripped them and they made dangerous decisions for the sake of their children.
The large water jug fell over behind me. And the quake began to dissipate enough for us to more safely head downstairs and outside.
Dust everywhere from collapsed houses.
When we got outside and into a field, another tremor came. As I watched the building from outside, it finally hit... fear. The whole earth and the building we had just left swayed, twisted, rocked.
When the tremor stopped, people looked around and realized the devastation.
Screams. A couple of people frantically ran to a small shack. My husband and another church member ran to help. As they looked inside the shack, my husband asked, "Who is in here?!"
Slapped in the face again with the depravity of man in a country that worships cows.
My husband and a few other men of the church left the shed. "We aren't here to save cows. We are here to rescue men!"
They headed quickly down toward the poorer area of the village, knowing those homes would be easily destroyed. My three children and I followed behind a little slower so that I could talk to them. Along the way, I warned the children that they may see things that are difficult to see. I warned them to guard their eyes... if I told them to look the other way, they were to not look no matter what. I reminded them that God was in control and that they were safe.
We reached a collapsed home where family members were frantically digging. "There are two people in here!"
I put the younger two children in a safe place to sit, far enough away that they could not see anything bad, but close enough for me to keep an eye on them. The rest of us began pulling bricks off the pile. After several minutes, I finally had to stop. I had on sandals and was tripping, sliding, and falling because of them. As much as I wanted to continue, I had to stop for my safety. I went back to my younger children.
When I got back to them, I was very thankful I did. Several more tremors came. I comforted my youngest child the best I could. He was terrified. Earthquakes are his biggest fear.
I looked around and saw so many able-bodied men standing by, doing nothing... watching. Clean hands. And then I saw the group of men and women, including my 15 year old son, working to do whatever they could to find these people. The contrast was startling... frustrating.
The group kept digging and throwing bricks. When they would get to something large and heavy, they would look at my husband who is much taller and stronger than they are, and plead for help. He would immediately rush to lift and remove the item. His white dress shirt was covered in brown brick dust.
Then crying and wailing.
I heard my husband say, "Take the kids away." Heartbroken.
As we started walking back to the church (aftershocks piercing the stillness frequently,) we began seeing people carrying wounded men and women. My husband, realizing we have the only four-wheel drive vehicle that can carry these people to hospitals, pulled out his keys and began transporting people. The children and I would spend the next several hours near the church building, waiting for his return.
As we waited, we talked to people to comfort them, and I tried to begin helping my youngest child deal with the trauma of the event. Every aftershock that rumbled sent people screaming and crying. There were so many aftershocks! My youngest snuggled up close to me.
So many hours passed by. My husband made his final trip to the hospital, and then came and picked us up.
As we traveled toward home, my husband said, "You are not going to like the road, but we gotta do it."
I saw the only road available for us to go out of the village. Half of it had slid away. There was barely enough room to squeeze through. My husband had already used this path to get people to the hospital. I closed my eyes and refused to look at the cliff or the landslide we were facing.
We made it through. Then we were stopped by a group of people who asked if we had room for one more person to take him to the hospital. We picked him up and drove on. After we dropped him off, we finally made it home. Our earthquake alarm was sounding nonstop. We had just installed the alarm last week. We found our home still standing and little damage to speak of.
School books in the floor. Vanity mirror tipped forward and contents spilled out. Tupperware container of sugar on the floor, but the lid stayed on. Blessed. Thankful.
Aftershocks were still coming one after another, and with every one our nerves tensed. Emotionally draining to say the least.
Dinner? Well, we couldn't go in the house for long periods of time, so I threw together what I had... raw carrots, some leftover cold ground meat and gravy from the fridge over top of beaten rice, a little cheese, and a spoon of peanut butter.
We set up camp outside in out patio drive area. This would be our home for the next three days because staying indoors was not safe. But in our typical, adventurous, crazy style, our family made the most of it.
(To be continued)