Surath Giri, National Coordinator, Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship
On the morning of 25th April, I was resting at home watching TV series on my laptop. I had just returned from Dolakha the previous night after conducting a training on entrepreneurship for some college students. When I experienced the first tremor, I expected it to be similar to weaker quakes that have hit Nepal in the recent past. I ignored it for a moment but ran to the door nonetheless. By the time I reached the door, the tremor had not only continued but also escalated to a level I had never ever experienced in my life. Unable to decide whether to run outside or search for a place to duck, cover and hold, I froze at the door of my room, petrified. This was probably the scariest moment in my life. For the one minute that the earth shook, I was sure that it was the last day of my life.
But then as suddenly as it had started, the quake ceased. I shot pass my door, shouted at my sister in the next room to jolt her out of her shock, and ran outside. Once outside, I realized my decision to stay indoors had been a good one - the walls that ran alongside the alley leading to my house from the main road had completely collapsed. Had I run outside at the first tremor, I could have come under those walls.
Between aftershocks, my family and I and our tenants rushed to the playground of a nearby school. It is among the few open spaces available in our neighborhood. All our neighbors had gathered there too. It was at this moment that I realized the gravity of having open public spaces in any community. Once we thought it was safe to go around, we started seeking news of the damages. Slowly the information started to seep in through various channels. I was extremely sad to hear that our beloved Dharahara tower had fallen down, that cultural heritage sites had been destroyed, and thousands of people had been killed. As I scrolled through the pictures of a crumbled Dharahara on my cellphone, I realized our lives were going to change forever and that I had to prepare myself. I am sure many Nepalese, especially in Kathmandu felt the way I did when they realized that Dharahara would no longer adorn the capital’s skyline.
For the next two days, my family spent our time in the temporary shelter we built in the school ground. Although I knew that a huge catastrophe had occurred, I was yet to comprehend the full extent of the devastation and loss. From 27th April, I started working with BBC World Service team that had arrived in Kathmandu. My duties were to help them with their reporting of the earthquake for two weeks. On visits to quake affected areas, I began to realize and come to terms with the extent of the devastation and loss. The earthquake had not only caused physical destruction, it had also made people fearful. Deep inside, people had begun to feel insecure and unsafe.
After two weeks, I went to Melamchi VDC of Sindhupalchok district to volunteer as an interpreter for the Czech Emergency Medical Response Team. The team treated around 70 patients that day including two emergencies. I felt a sense of pride at being able to help people understand each other so that people could get the right treatment. In surrounding areas, the physical destruction had been huge and many people had died. I hardly met any families, that day, who did not have a family member or relative that had died because of the earthquake. Still, I was equally amazed to see that people had not given up. They seemed to have accepted what had happened, and were moving on with their lives. The resilience shown by the Nepali people is truly impressive.
The earthquake was a huge blow to the already ailing country. I am hopeful that this experience will end up making our country stronger.
Lokesh Todi, Director, Reliance Group Nepal
I was sitting in the 1st floor of my home watching TV when the earthquake hit. I realized it was an earthquake when a few photo frames started shaking and falling down. I quickly found a safe place and got into a fetal position. When the earthquake finished, I was concerned if everyone in my family was OK. I honestly didn’t know how destructive the earthquake because our house and the ones surrounding us were fine. It was only an hour later, when news started to flow in I began to understand how destructive the quake really was.
Riken Maharjan, R.B. Diamond Jewelers Pvt. Ltd.
My wife and I were on the 1st floor, on a video call with my sister-in-law when we felt the first jolt. A few seconds later when our 50 inch TV fell down due to the shaking, we realized that this was a big one. For some reason, we could not open the door, so we held on to a pillar and waited. All this time, my sister in-law was crying and watching these things happen. Once the shaking stopped we ran down to our garden to see that all our compound walls had collapsed. We started calling our family members; fortunately, everyone is fine.
Sneh Rajbhandari, Nepal Programs Manager, Included
It felt like a helicopter was trying to land in our garden, and the wings were causing the trees to sway, and the ground to roar and shake. About 5 seconds into the earthquake, I realized what was happening and quickly got everyone outside my home to join me. My father, however, was in his room, and I kept shouting out to him repeatedly, panic stricken that he would be injured on his way down. A part of me wanted to go back inside to get him, but the force of the earthquake kept me rooted to the spot I was in. I have never felt as relieved as when I saw him come downstairs. We ran out to our back garden as the first minute ended. We could still feel the earth boiling below our feet.
In our front garden, our entire compound wall had collapsed and our neighbors had gathered in the open space in front of our house – some of them were crying with fear. Deep inside I knew that this was something terrible, but at the same time it felt surreal. My immediate priority was to call my mother who was out of the country to let her know what had happened, and very quickly I started receiving an outpouring of messages and calls from abroad to ask if we were okay. For the rest of the afternoon, our neighbors gathered in our open space as we waited for the aftershocks to subside. In a minute Nepal’s fate literally changed forever, and due to phone lines being down and TV lines being out as well, for those few hours, we were isolated and oblivious to everything that was happening around us.
The first news of death came when our neighbor from Sindhupalchowk found out his father and son had died in the earthquake. With this, the real impact of the disaster begun to sink in and for the rest of the day, I saw many of our national heritage sites destroyed. I have not had the courage to watch news coverage of the disaster; I felt we needed to act, and not wallow in sorrow. I went to see the Kalmochan temple in Thapathali which I heard had crumbled to the ground, and on my way witnessed both the Maternity Hospital and Norvic Hospital swarming with injured patients. What I didn’t know at the time was in the coming days, I would see the best of my people in the midst of disaster, bringing out the true nature of human solidarity and kindness as we all banded together as survivors helping those whose fates had been challenged.
Utsav Shakya, Communications and Outreach Manager, Louis Berger/Sakchyam
The quake hit just as I started my lunch of chicken curry and rice – a Saturday tradition in my home for as long as I remember. Asking my parents to get out of the house, I acted on pure impulse and ran upstairs to find my elderly grandfather. I found him already on his feet and trying to make his way to the stairs. He had had a bad fall a few years ago, an accident that had shattered a thigh bone; his legs had been weak before the fall. As he swayed dangerously from the force of the tremors, I held him with both hands, my own feet unsure of staying upright. Taking small steps, we reached the wall behind us and leaning against it, I helped him sit down, all the time talking to him and telling him it would be okay. I’m not sure if I was trying to console him, a stubborn man who’d roamed forests with wild animals armed with a stick in his youth, or myself, a city boy whose exposure to disaster till now had been limited to flat tires and coffee spills. When the tremors stopped, I helped him get down the stairs; the house still moved.
Outside, my dad showed me a gash on his forehead where he had been struck by an overhanging metal lamp holder. My mother prayed loudly as my sister tried to calm her down. Our thoughts turned to my grandmother who had gone for a meditation session a few kilometers away from our place; that the meditation center was a floor tall gave us some consolation as we tried to locate my uncle and aunt and their kids. My father brought her back a few hours later; after at least 5 more large aftershocks. I breathed a sigh of relief that day only after seeing each member of my family with my own eyes. Telephone confirmations for some reason didn’t seem enough.
We were all accounted for and our house was safe, but because electricity was out, we had no idea of the damage and loss in the Valley and outside the capital. As days passed and we began to move around the city more freely, the damage and destruction hit me hard. As a journalist, I had written about many of these heritage sites, visiting them often, never once thinking that someday these might fall. Toda every site in the city shows scars of the quake, but as ubiquitous are the volunteer efforts of the locals. The quake might have caught us at a weak time, but it’s left us a stronger and more resilient people.