April 2015, the day of terror, came as an envoy of death for thousands of people who were absolutely unaware that death is coming after a while. Most of them might be eating, chatting, bathing or doing domestic work at home which was their dearest shelter, became the crematorium later.
How can I forget that day, which took 9,000 lives, which made 22,300 people injured and devastated more than half a million houses? It is a nightmare of my life and never forget even if I try.
A beautiful sunny day, 11:56 AM, I had just put on clothes to my son after giving him bath. Suddenly, I heard a horrible roaring sound, and five story building where I have been living at third floor, started to shake badly. In the beginning, I could not even think that what is going on, and later I became cautious, Oh! My god, it was an earthquake. It took few seconds to be alert and as soon as I alert, I hold my five years old son, took the position of ‘Duck, cover and hold’ and covered him under me. He was enjoying of shaking at the beginning but scared later. No sooner jolting started, than I heard the screaming from upstairs. I was thinking to go to help them; however, the situation was not so easy. At the same time, I was remembering my wife who had gone out just before half an hour for meeting of the cooperative, established by the local women. I was worried about her as well as my son. After about a minute later, shaking stopped.
I took long breathe, picked up my cell phone, hold my son and quickly went out from the door. I checked the people of the upstairs whether they are okay or not. They said they are okay. I did not waste time and ran to the open ground, carrying my son.
It was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake as recorded by Nepal’s National Seismological Center.
Fortunately, my wife and I had been identifying the place to meet if disaster like earthquake happen. I ran to the open place where my wife had to come. She was not there. My son and I was waiting for her and every second of waiting was so painful and terrible. After about five minutes of waiting, I saw her coming towards us. As soon as she met us, embraced with love and cried out loudly. It was the tear of happiness. She thanked the god for giving us new life. We stood few more minutes embracing one another, meanwhile, we felt another aftershock which scared us again.
We moved to safer place where many other people had already gathered. All of them were terrified and confused. I tried to call the relatives and friends to know their situation but telephone line was too busy. I got first call from the home, Itahri. My brother had called to know about us. I told him not to worry about us and to convey the message to the parents as well. Similarly, my wife and I called some relatives and friends, and some of them called us too. Thank god, those who I know closely were safe. My parents were safe too because they live about 500 km far from the Kathmandu. But the situation of the Kathmandu, the capital city and surrounding districts were not so good. We were listening the radio and getting heart breaking information that there is massive destruction in the country due to magnitude 7.6 earthquake and causes many deaths. Many local radio stations did excellent job by giving lifesaving information.
As long as the aftershock continued, people did not get rid of the terror. In the one hand, they had the fear to go inside their house and on the other hand, they were worried to manage the safe shelter for living. Condition was not good in the aftermath of frequent aftershock; in contrast, life had to go by managing the essential stuff. That’s why, my neighbor and I decided to make a shelter on the open space for our family and other people. We put bamboo pillar on the ground and made roof, using plastic material above the pillar. It was the shelter which was not useful, in case raining.
I was working in BBC Nepali Service too as a news reporter (Now, working in BBC Media Action only). So, I had to go to the news room for producing the news bulletin, but my wife was insisting me not to go, because she was worried about my security. I consoled her to stay calm, and went to office, leaving them in the temporary shelter. Few colleague were working in the newsroom in tense mood.
All the kids were kept in safe buildings where teachers were teaching with distinctive activities, including music and dance, to make student relax and calm.
I joined them and started to collect the information from the authority and the different districts. In the beginning, we started to count the casualties from the hundred and later we presumed that death toll might be thousands. I was in touch with my family as well and got information that they have moved to the local futsal which is near to my residence. I was quite happy that at least we will be safe from the rain. I returned at night after finishing the news bulletin of 8:45 and meet my family. At least, 50 families were taking shelter on that refusal.
My wife told me the funny jokes that girl should not marry three professionals: doctor, security personnel and journalist. She told me that they never stay with their family at the time of disaster. Her joke was quite true because these three people were too busy after the earthquake. Leaving their own family in temporary shelter; medical staffs were busy for the treatment of the wounded, security personnel were busy in search and rescue operation and journalist were busy to disseminate and collect the information.
We lived almost one month in the temporary shelter. On that period, my wife was too worried, listening the casualties of people; however, my five years old son was too happy because he got opportunity to experience the amazing shaking and chance to play with the local kids on open space. I was so surprised that this boy has not frightened with earthquake. In fact, he did not see any devastation and deaths because my residential area was not demolished, even we did not talk about the incidents before him. These might be the reason, he did not afraid and enjoyed our outside stay as an outing.
While returning home, there was a little fear inside the heart that whether the house will be safer or not, we entered the house, though. I was attending my office regularly and my son had also started to go school. We three member of the family had to live different places at the day time. After an every aftershock, my wife and I used to talk via phone to know about each other, and I used to go to school to see my son to check his situation. He was not so desperate like other children. His school was in good condition except one building which was totally collapsed.
All the kids were kept in safe buildings where teachers were teaching with distinctive activities, including music and dance, to make student relax and calm. Many kids were emotionally weak after the earthquake and it was big challenge for the teacher to bring them to normal condition; although, they were trying their level best to normalize the children. I was worried about rest of the two family member, while my wife was also worried rest of us too. My son also would worry when he did not see us, in case aftershock happened. Such a triangular anxiety continued at least three months. Just as the intensity of the aftershocks decreased, so as the level of desperation got off.
I would like to admire my son’s bravery, and salute my wife’s patience, which abled me to go to daily reporting. I am a witness of the horrifying human casualties and the huge devastation of infrastructure. We have broken but not beaten; we have crushed but not tired. We will rise again like the red sun of the early morning.
Rasaili is a news reporter of BBC Nepali Service