October 8th, my birthday and that too a Saturday! What luck! Chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes (you can’t get enough of anything chocolatey on this day!) and presentsss!
I got my first birthday text message at exactly midnight, my sister, of course!
8:15 a.m. and I’m wolfing down my birthday breakfast along with my mum and dad. Clicks of the camera, laughs, happy birthday being hummed intermittently.
8:50 a.m.. At first I thought it was a heavy truck passing by, the windows rattled, slight shuddering of the ground, that’s what usually happens. But this time, it didn’t seem to end. As if on cue, all eyes in the apartment turned upwards to the chandelier, swinging erratically from side to side. The trembling was massive, accompanied by a thunderous roar. It took an unprecedented presence of mind to react opportunely at this exact surreal moment.
Joining other fearful neighbours, many barefooted, we practically raced down the stairs from the fourth to the ground floor. As we ran outside, my surroundings from the day before had vanished. The apartment building next to ours had collapsed. Dust and debris merged with the landscape.
The coming hours were a blur. Cries, screams, bare hands digging furiously through the rubble, as people from nearby scrambled to do the unthinkable on a sunny Saturday morning.
Rescue teams, ambulances and TV crews appeared, shouts and sirens blended in a crude melody.
We were now in the grassy piece of land across the road, along with scores of other survivors. A survivor, that’s what I was, unlike the other victims. The fallen slabs of concrete were now littered with spots of orange. I turned my head away every time a humanly shape was pulled onto a stretcher from the rubble. Suddenly, cries, this time of joy, a baby had been pulled out alive as applause filled the air.
Frantic relatives and friends descended onto the scene, the relief visible when they spotted their loved ones. Warned not to enter our building, we shakily went home with our cousins. It was when we switched on the TV that we realized it was worse than we thought. The quake had destroyed thousands of decrepit houses and other structures in the northern, mountainous areas. Children had been buried in their classrooms.
Phone calls kept pouring in all night. Yes, we were safe. The hours cut off had been a nightmare for shocked relatives away from the quake zone.
We sat glued to the TV. Miraculously, a few trapped survivors had actually managed to send text messages for help. I couldn’t sleep. I had just survived an earthquake. I was, I couldn’t bring myself to say the word…alive….and so were my parents. I looked down at my shaking hands and closed my eyes, thinking of the residents in the collapsed building next to mine and scores of others who were either still buried alive, dead, had lost limbs, family members or friends. I had just survived an earthquake. My birthday would never be the same again.
This is a fictional piece based on true events and is dedicated to the memories of the victims and survivors of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan and the adjoining areas, on the 8th of October 2005. Over 75,000 people were killed, with millions left homeless.
I would also like to say a big thank you to all the countries that helped out during this natural disaster, promptly sending rescue teams and offering aid. These include RAPID UK (Britain), China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, Belgium, Iran, Switzerland, Sweden, France, America, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Cuba, Australia, India, Norway, UAE, Jordan, Tunisia etc.
Day 19 NaBloPoMo/NanoPoblano/YeahNoMo