Walking on the path towards Pemba Dorje’s house in the village of Dechenthang, Nepal, looking down from high above the village, I am briefly blinded by the sun shining light on his new metal roof. Memories flood my mind looking at his house under construction. His home was one of the thousands destroyed just before noon, three years ago today when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck this otherwise peaceful village and much of Nepal.
Every time I look back on the day the Earthquake struck, I get anxiety. It’s been three years, but my heart still trembles with fear and tears form in my eyes. Before that day I heard stories and read about earthquakes in books or watched them dramatized in movies but had never experienced anything like it, and never want to again. Now this day serves as an emotional scar leaving me a lifelong victim of its destruction.
When the earthquake hit I was working for Aythos with my friend and coworker, Muna. We were there with Pemba Dorje and his family. The shaking started, and though we didn’t know it at the time we had just a few seconds before the house started collapsing around us. We managed to escape with just minor injuries, but the house was destroyed. We stood next to the crumbling pile of rubble trying to get our bearings, as a dark dust filled the air pushed up from the shaking ground. But the sounds stay in my head of neighbors’ screams, children crying, older women chanting Buddhist mantras, and then the wind blowing and rain coming down. Even after the shaking ended the noises of falling land and rocks continued for seconds more.
As night fell there was no shelter to find cover from the rain. Thirty men, women, and children, slept under a tarp only big enough for half that number. I don’t think anyone slept. I couldn’t hold back my silent tears and I laid on the same ground that was violently shaking hours before. I think it was the longest night of my life, I was so restless. I wasn’t able to stop my tears while I was thinking about loved ones. We couldn’t talk to each other with all network signals down. Are my family and friends safe? Do they know that I am still alive? What will I do if any of my loved ones were in danger? Will I ever see them again?
The swirling of thoughts wouldn’t stop through the night. How could anyone sleep when there is an empty stomach rumbling from hunger? How could anyone sleep when someone is so desperate to hear the voices of family members again? Most importantly, how could anyone sleep when there is the fear of death hovering all around and you feel so sure that you will never see your family again? Everyone was praying for the morning, good weather, and good news of our loved ones and hopefully some food to eat.
After the wait of that long night, we could feel the morning’s fresh air. As the rain was also slowly pulling back, the men began to gather the firewood to provide warmth to the women and children and most importantly, at least some tea to pacify everyone’s hunger just a little. After some time working together to make the situation just a little more comfortable we made plans to move our day along. Since it stopped raining, the Aythos team headed to the nearby village of Sermathang where our other co-worker, Dorje, was located. We were happy to see that Dorje’s family and the rest of the villagers were safe.
After spending a night in Sermathang, Muna and I headed towards her home in Palchowk. When we arrived, Muna’s mom was waiting as if she knew already that her daughter was coming. As soon as they saw each other, they hugged so tightly and began to cry. Her mom’s tears kept flowing and she wouldn’t let go. Watching their bond made me miss my own mom who was not around anymore. It desperately made me wish, if I had a mom that she would shower me with love and tell me it would be okay.
It took five days to get to my home in Kathmandu. When I got there my younger brother was waiting for me. We were both so happy to see each other. After some catching up I called my family members living in villages away from the city and found out that everyone in my family was safe.
My father, who had been working in Malaysia, called me. He was worried about the threat of future earthquakes and wanted me to leave my job at Aythos. Through Aythos, I had to travel with my team to many remote areas. My father was fearful and wanted me to stay with rest of my family. I considered this occasionally but every time I closed my eyes, I could hear the cries of the people, the tears in their eyes were so real and present to me. I couldn’t pretend that I could rest when so many people were in need. My father was upset with my decision, and it was culturally common for parents to have a say in what their children do with their lives, but this was for a good cause.
It’s been three years now and I am still working at Aythos, travelling to the remote communities of Nepal to help people. I used to curse that day for what it did to so many people, but now I am grateful for learning to be brave, courageous, loving and kind. I thank that day for helping me to realize the existence and importance of humanity on this earth and how could I forget to thank that day which saved my life so I could serve people. I love my work. I love to talk to
people from different parts of Nepal and serve the needy. My work is fun, and together with my Aythos team, I have a place where I can continue to focus on helping.