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The 30 seconds that changed my life

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simran aryal
Member since April 19, 2018
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(C) UNICEF/UNI184672/Shekhar Karki

(C) UNICEF/UNI184672/Shekhar Karki

The 30 seconds that changed my life

Is this some paranormal activity? Or, am I dreaming? I struggled towards the window to check if my house was rammed by a moving vehicle, or worse, a Bulldozer. But, to my dismay, I was shocked to find out what it was, when I heard my mother in the next room wail "Earthquake! Earthquake!” I could feel the rush of adrenaline in my body. The sensation of death and fear were never so real. I ran for protection in my mother’s direction, where she was holding on to a door frame. I stumbled and fell at one point as I tried to run towards her. The shaking was so vigorous, that things started falling and shattering right in front of my eyes, as we were trying to maintain a grip on the door frame to not be thrown around. It stopped in about 30 seconds and following my mother's lead I ran outside to find an open area and called my brother to make sure he was safe. Luckily, he was at a relatives house, and was safe.

It happened exactly at 11:56 am on the fine Saturday morning of April 25, 2015. There was some road expansion work being carried out in the neighborhood. I initially thought the shaking occurred from a bulldozer tearing down a building or a vehicular accident. But soon, we all realized it was a magnitude 7.8 massive earthquake that had just hit us.

“Dharahara has fallen!”, “Dharahara has fallen!” cried, a stranger on the street, as people were coming to terms with the scale of devastation that had just happened. Dharahara, built about 200 years ago, used to be the tallest standing building in Kathmandu until a few minutes ago. It all started syncing in now. The scene of devastation, injured people with blood over their body, neighbor’s faces pale with fear and anxiety, the cry for help from trapped ones, and dead bodies being pulled out of the rubble were not less than any larger-than-life scene from a disaster movie. And, I was living it.

My moral science text book in school said that, human beings in times of crisis somehow come together and start working as a team. Within, the next hour, the survivors were starting to dig the rubble to pull out the trapped. I was forming a group of young people from my neighborhood and tried pulling out the trapped ones. We stopped taxi- cabs and requested them to take those that were injured to the nearest hospital. In the next few days we intensified our work to help other foreign rescuers, with whatever help we could provide. Sometimes we ran water to the rescuers, and sometimes did the rescue work under their supervision. Many times, I found myself translating for the foreign rescuers, as most of them spoke English. We also visited other affected areas near Kathmandu and distributed food and relief materials to the ones in dire need of them.

I had never sensed the feeling of belonging and responsibility toward my community to this degree before. This feeling of unity among us was uniquely very strong, and not of the type that we read in text books, and forget about it later. We were reminded of being a Nepali and that we had to help each other. The property damage that my family had to bear due to the earthquake could stand as a barrier to my advancement in higher education. But, I am less worried about it now because these 30 seconds of terror shook me from inside and transformed me from an aloof teenager into a responsible citizen who wants to contribute to society and work for its betterment.





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