Once I passed through the threshold of the building, the first person I see is Tim, one of my team members. He is standing by the doorway, moving from one foot to other, backwards and forwards. It’s hard to tell if he is trying to surf the waves of the earth, run back inside or run to the Chinese boarder. However, once I looked at his face; I knew exactly what he was thinking, or more accurately, debating.
As the building separated from the ones next-door; buildings that were built against each other, a light well between the two structures became visible. The buildings literally broke apart from each other. The two buildings that almost looked like one, started swaying in different directions; to and fro, side to side, smashing into one another.
With each passing second, Tim’s internal debate became more urgent. As team members were still inside, it was clear he was debating about whether to go back inside to help. The wrong decision could have dire consequences if the buildings decided to collapse; and by the look of it, it was a very real possibility.
With the stampede behind me, I run past Tim, leaving him to deal with his debate. Once I get to what I considered to be safe enough distance from the building; which in hindsight probably wasn’t quite far enough, I look to my left and in that moment I watch a house collapse on itself. A mushroom cloud of dust rising from the rubble and I just stand there in shock. The realization of the danger surrounding me suddenly dawns on me.
As I’m watching the dust cloud disappear, a Nepali girl has latched herself to me. Sobbing uncontrollably. Speaking, yelling, crying in Nepalese. I’m not sure how or when she attached herself but I’m sure glad she did. As I’m watching the door of the building, hoping and praying that the other team members will hurry up and get out and that the building won’t suddenly disintegrate with people still inside, I’m trying to comfort my new attachment, my beautiful Nepali girl.
She thought I was the one being strong and comforting her; but in actual fact, whether she realized it or not, she was holding me up. I was literally leaning on her. I have never been so okay to have another person’s snot and tears all over me. She allowed me to avoid a full-blown breakdown.
While we were hugging, the earth calmed, however my legs were still trembling so much that I’m still not entirely sure when the actual quake stopped. Did it last for one minute or five or ten?
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