17 Days, 54 minutes later…
It had been exactly 17 days and 54 minutes since the 7.8 earthquake of April 25th had rocked Nepal. The nation, it’s citizens, as well as us, were not prepared for a major earthquake in Nepal. The country and it’s people were still reeling from the massive quake just 17 days and 54 minutes earlier. Small but noticeable aftershocks were rattling the region almost constantly since the first quake.Few people had returned to their homes. Most were still in favor of sleeping outdoors. Under open skies, nothing would come crashing down on them if another big tremor struck. Most people were still holding their breath waiting for another big one. Despite the anticipation of another quake, some normalcy had come back to Nepal and first stages of rebuilding were under way.
A Day Off from Relief Work
Kari and I had been working almost non-stop since the quake with Nepal Grassroots Recovery (still working in Nepal under the name Disaster Hack) gathering, organizing and delivering relief supplies to the decimated Sindhupalchowk region, a five hour drive from Kathmandu. The days since we started delivering relief had been long and tiring. Up at 6 or 7am to load the truck. Then five hours to the village riding in a the back of the truck loaded with rice, tarps and other supplies. The drive was followed by 3-4 hours of distributing supplies on the hillsides of remote villages. That was followed by a long five hour ride back to Kathmandu along twisting mountain roads.
Everyday a different village, but we were seeing the same things. People sleeping outside, away from the crumbled structures they once called home trying to piece their lives back together. It was hard work both physically and emotionally. Most of our team was staying at the Hotel Pushkar in the Thamel District of Kathmandu. May 12th was to be our first of not working since the initial earthquake.
On this day, May 12 2015, 17 days and 54 minutes after the 7.8 earthquake of April 25th…the Hotel Pushkar started to shake. Fresh out of the shower, Kari looked at me, just as she had done 17 days and 54 minutes ago, with terror in her eyes. As we raced to the door wearing nothing but our underwear as the shaking grew more intense and the screams began to fill the air amidst the rumbling. Everyone in Kathmandu was terrified because they knew exactly what was happening.
Flashing Before Our Eyes
As we flung the door of our second story room open, we looked up to see the 500 liter water tank across the courtyard rocking, splashing and teetering on the edge of crashing to the ground 5 stories below. Other guests of the hotel rushed past, members of our team appeared in other doorways. The noise of the rocking buildings increased as did our fear that our luck may have run out. On the second floor of a brick building, surrounded by more brick buildings that had already survived two massive earthquakes, we feared for our lives hoping the shaking would stop and spare us.
After what felt like a lifetime, the shaking stopped. The buildings in the courtyard had held and the water tank across the way was still perched five stories up. We were safe. But, after 17 days and 54 minutes of getting over the intense fear caused by the April 25th quake, our emotions came racing back. Only this time it was different. This time, the major earthquake in Nepal affected us much differently.
I think the difference experiencing the two major quakes of April 25th and May 12th is best likened to getting shots at the doctor’s office. The first earthquake was like the first time you’re the needle pricks you. The doctor or your parents will tell you it’s going to hurt. But, you don’t truly understand what the sensation will feel like until the needle pierces your skin. After you’ve had your first shot, we’re familiar with the sensation and you know the pain it causes. The next time we visit the doctor for shots, the simple sight of the needle is as terrifying as the actual prick. The May 12th quake was our second trip to the doctor.
What Would Another Major Earthquake in Nepal Mean?
This time we were all too familiar on what could happen. We had spent the last two weeks helping people put their lives back together. Two weeks of looking into the eyes of people who lost everything and had their world turned upside down. Like everyone else who felt the quake on May 12th, we knew exactly what the day’s tremor could cause.
This time around we had all the information that we didn’t have on April 25th. We knew the magnitude of destruction and the number of casualties and injures a major earthquake in Nepal could cause. We knew the colossal amount of money & time it would take to get Nepal back on it’s feet. What we knew scared us. Now we could see these already horrific numbers rising.
The May 12th earthquake was a 7.3 physical shaking. However, it was also a strong emotional jolt because we knew what we might see once we walked outside of the Hotel Pushkar. We now knew people in Nepal that we called friends.
The people we had met who had survived the first quake could now be suffering a different fate the wake of this new tremor. We knew people who were living in the remote villages of Sindhupalchowk and we knew what could be happening to them. Having all 5 of our senses exposed to horrors the damage caused by the quake just 17 days and 54 minutes earlier made those 40 seconds of shaking in that doorway the 40 most terrifying seconds of our lives.
What You Take With You
For months after the this second major earthquake in Nepal, miles away from Kathmandu, Sindhupalchowk, and Hotel Puskar we were still feeling on edge. Sitting at a table in Malaysia and someone begins the shake their leg, our first thought was earthquake. Standing on a street corner in Dar Es Saalam, Tanzania and a large truck rolls by shaking the ground. Our first thought was earthquake. It took some time before we could let these everyday occurrences like, someone shaking their leg or a truck passing, become everyday occurrences once again.
The effects of the second major earthquake in Nepal had on us is lasting and profound because we now know all too well what can happen when the ground starts to shake.
Want to know more about our experiences in Nepal?
Keep an eye out for these follow up posts about our experiences in Nepal:
4/26/15: The Day After The Nepal Earthquake
The 6 Weeks Following the Earthquake:Relief Work in Nepal – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
1 Year Later: 12 Lessons We Learned Through Surviving a Natural Disaster
For more information about the earthquake: check out The USGS or Wikipedia
Do you have a story to share about living through the Nepal earthquake?
What you think about our experience of being there and living through the Nepal earthquake?