People Share What It Was Like Surviving A Serious Disaster.
Here, people share what it actually was like surviving a disaster.
1. "Laziness saved my life."
In 2004, a 1 ton car bomb exploded in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta at 10:30 A.M. I was working at a language school on the other side of the road, and every morning I did a u-turn at the embassy at that exact time.
The previous night, I had been very tired and was too lazy to fill up on gas, which meant I was 10 minutes late. When the bomb detonated, I was about half a kilometer away - my car rocked, debris rained down on my windscreen, and I thought it was an earthquake.
Laziness saved my life.
2. "Not the smartest thing I've ever done."
I lived through a Category 4 hurricane. The eye passed over my house, which was pretty cool. We have buried power lines all the way to my house (a strategically important building is nearby) so we didn't lose power at all. Near the height of the storm we are watching the news and realize that they were just down the street. My brother and I walked past their camera with surfboards under our arms as if we were going into the 40' surf.
Not the smartest thing I've ever done.
3. Hard thing to live with.
On a summer evening in 2012, I survived the Aurora theater shooting. Part of my survival was pure luck that he didn't look down the row where I was huddled with my friends, either on his way in or out.
It's changed my life, made me more aware that things can change in an instant- on a whim. But permanently, I had never had something scar me so deeply. Still not over it, not sure I ever will be.
4. And then the earth started shaking...
In 2007 while in the Solomon Islands I went through an earthquake that had a magnitude of 8.1 on a near by island and had after shocks up to a magnitude of 6.1. Surprisingly, despite spending most of my life in an area prone to these things, this was the first one I had experienced in my life.
I nearly crapped myself when the earth started shaking (story continued on the next page...).
I was in a hut with some of my friends having some tea and biscuits and then everything just started shaking. I was away from home because I was visiting a neighboring island called Simbo. So as soon as I felt the earthquake, I was simply like "screw that, I'm going into the mountains to avoid a tsunami." It was a massive trek and, trust me. I did not stop to have a break. When you're in danger, the adrenaline is insane. I've been told ever since I was young that if the earth moves, you run up to the mountains.
Some people decided to stay in their houses near the sea shore because they thought that everything would be fine, but seriously, nothing is ever fine in these moments. Most of us got up there but those who stayed behind got severely injured or killed.
Complete villages were destroyed that were on the side of the sea. The thing is, people always forget what happens. Sure, with technology improving we can be warned before it happens, but your whole house been destroyed is still not worth it for a nice view.
Heaps of houses were destroyed and it was awful. The clean up is a the worst part though.
The moral of this story is whenever the earth moves, you run up that mountain.
5. Close call.
He was suppose to be at the world trade center or a meeting over 100 floors up on 911. He missed the train in the morning because my brother spilled coffee all over his shirt and was running late and decided to forget it and claim he was sick.
6. "Wave... wave, wave."
2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka.
I have pretty bad anxiety and stress from it.
Basically, we'd gone to Thailand and Sri Lanka for the Christmas Holiday. My brothers and I spent a good few weeks bumming around Bangkok and the Koh Islands and then met up with our family for the Sri Lankan leg.
We stayed at my Aunts place in Tangalla, which is at the very bottom right of the island for reference, before deciding we wanted to head up to Adams Peak the next morning to see the "sacred footprint" (Buddhas footprint). So we arranged a car that evening and all went to bed.
I can't remember exactly what time it was but my brothers and I all woke up between 2 - 3 am due to hearing the windows rattle. If you've ever grown up in a place that gets earth quakes, like California, you're use to this. But in Sri Lanka this felt really out of place- as though an 18 wheeler and barrelled on by (which obviously they don't have there). We shrugged it off, went back to sleep and then got up about 630 in the morning to get ready for our trip.
Before leaving Tangalle, my younger brothers friend wanted to email his parents so he went down to the internet cafe. He'd been gone for a while so I went to check on him. Apparently he'd been sitting there for quite a while just trying to connect to the internet but failing hard at it, so I persuaded him to just give up and get in the car.
We start driving down the coast to hit the main road that would take us up to Adams Peak when our driver gets dead silent and cranks up the radio and starts to go faster. We're all wonder what the crap is going on when he just says "Wave.. wave wave," and then floors it up the connecting road to get inland. What we didn't know was that the wave was about 200 yards or so behind us, taking out pretty much everything.
We finally made it up to Kandy, booked a hotel with dozens of other people, and stared at the news reports of what had happened.
7. She just walked for hours.
My sister went to one of the schools around ground zero. On 9/11, she just heard chaos outside and some how managed to get to safety with hoards of other people. We couldn't get through to her phone that day because all the lines were tied up. Hours later, she calls us asking us for a ride home. We were pretty dam relieved. When we asked her how she got to Queens, she told us herself and thousands of other people walked from downtown and crossed the bridge on foot. That's several hours of walking during a tragedy all while knowing nothing.
This story pales in comparison to other survivor stories from 9/11 though.
8. "The worst part about this was..."
On April 16th, 2007 during my Freshman year of College at Virginia Tech, one of (if not the... I don't really want to look this up anymore) worst school shootings in history occurred.
I was in McBride, a math building right next to Norris hall (I could jump to the Norris Hall doors from McBride). I still had no idea what was happening when my class ended around 10AM, yet our teacher told us to just go back to our dorms and not go anywhere because a shooting happened earlier in the day on campus at West AJ, one of the residence halls (story continued on the next page...).
On our way out of the class, we were met by a Cop with an M4, or a shotgun, yelling at us to stay inside and not come out. The sheer terror in his eyes still haunts me.
For the next 6 hours, I watched as students jumped from windows and were hauled out of the building: some moving, some not. Police SUVs were doubling as ambulances for a while, and soon just a row of Ambulances had pulled up waiting to take the dead/injured away.
I stayed on campus after this happened. I didn't attend classes as we did not have to, and used the next month of time as a way to get closer with the people who were on campus, and help my friends heal. Lots of therapy got me through that one. It's still hard for me to not enter a classroom and immediately look at the windows to see if I can jump out, the door to see if it locks, or if there are alternative exits that you can use.
The worst part about this was the political movement that came afterwards. Reporters stopping me for any kind of statement and then twisting it as much as possible to fit their agenda. Religious zealots handing out pamphlets and yelling in megaphones saying we deserved the terror that occurred to us, and that it was our fault. Every year on the anniversary, they would come back to campus.
9. Who knew you'd have to dig up contaminated dirt!?
I lived through the big Japan earthquake/tsunami a few years ago. I was in the mountains, so the tsunamis weren't a threat and the earthquake didn't do much damage in my area (stuff got thrown around in my apartment and there were cracks on the walls).
The worst part in terms of affecting my daily life was the radiation scare. It rained shortly afterwards and I remember having to dig up the soil around my office with my other co-workers to remove the contaminated dirt. Scary times.
On April 19th, 1995 I was 4 years old and at a preschool around 6 miles west of the Murrah Building. I distinctly remember hearing what sounded like distant thunder, then the ground shook. All of us ran to the window and could see smoke from that direction. I remember a teacher coming into the room and telling the other adults that the Murrah Building had been bombed. I remember nothing else of it though. My parents did a good job of keeping me sheltered from it.
11. Too close for comfort.
May 31st 2013, an EF-5 tornado formed west of the OKC metro area. It was headed directly for my part of town. My parents, my daughter and I took all of the dogs to our neighbor's shelter, prepared for the absolute worst case scenario. Just as it was getting within a couple of miles it turned south. It missed my husband's workplace by a block, and he was there at the time.
12. Now that's pretty lucky.
On September 11th, 2001, I was in my office at the Pentagon when a plane crashed into the building. I was in the E ring, just round the corner from where the plane hit (story continued on the next page...).
It was a pretty orderly evacuation. They sent everyone out onto the parade grounds outside the building, which was on the opposite side of the impact.
I survived because of the fact that the location of impact, while only about 200 yards from my office, happened in the empty "wedge" of the building that had recently wrapped up renovations that included new blast doors/walls, all new windows, and reinforced framing throughout that section. Our office was scheduled to move into the new section in the following month.
BTW, it WAS a plane. Any missile big enough to leave a hole the size of the one the plane left, would have obliterated a much larger section of that building. As a side note, if that guy had nosed down into the central courtyard, we might not be having this conversation.
13. Life saved through nagging.
Not my story but this happened to a friend of mine.
On the day of the 7/7 attacks in London he had an argument with his girlfriend over something trivial and consequently missed his train. He got a tube later than he normally would and therefore he was on the tube behind the one that exploded outside of Russel Square. As the underground and the cars filled with dust and smoke, people naturally started panicking and he told me he just wanted to get out and see the sun again. They were eventually led out and he walked about in a complete daze as it became clear there were other bombs that had gone off. He eventually wandered towards Tavistock as he heard another explosion and rounded the corner to see a double decker bus with the top blown off. He said he honestly thought that the entire city was under attack and that this was just the opening salvo. He ran until he came to an HMV (record store in the UK) and hid in their basement level the entire day, paying staff to go out and get him food. The staff let him use their phone to call his family/girlfriend but he only left when the very nice staff were closing for the day.
He laughs it off but in retrospect it was just sheer fluke. He now has two daughters and is planning on marrying the GF as I suppose she did save his life through nagging.
14. I would steer clear of that from now on too.
I was involved in a bus accident which basically plunged down a ravine. I guess I was lucky because I am quite small and the impact was cushioned by others.
How did it affect my life?...
I hate going on buses now.
15. That's awful.
In my country men have to serve in the military once they're old enough. I was recruited in April of 2000.
During the first couple of weeks of basic training there was one guy in my company there was one guy, let's call him Oz. Oz was really acting up. He would shout at our superiors, refuse to do things, come in late and/or drunk and at one point even got into a physical altercation with the equivalent of a Master Sergeant (or so) which initiated a process that eventually lead to his early dismissal from his military service.
So one day, we're on duty to clean the showers together, and I talk to him, ask him why he's acting up and why he doesn't care about the consequences of his actions (story continued on the next page...).
At first he doesn't seem to want to get into it. He acts tough and tells me that he just doesn't give a crap and that he feels he's wasting his time here yadda, yadda, yadda. Over the following days we get to talk more often and during an alcohol infused afternoon he finally opens up.
He tells me that he feels his life is over. He figures he shouldn't be alive anymore and that he feels lost. I ask him why he feels this way and he goes on to tell me his story:
Last year October, he was back in his hometown of Izmit in Turkey where his family originally comes from. He lived there until he was 6 or 7 and would hang out with all his childhood friends whenever he came back. Having moved to a "rich western country" he would tell me his friends had all these expectations about him being wealthy relative to them. Trying to impress them he would go out with them pretty much every night and get wasted on alcohol and various drugs.
So one night he's out with his buddies and gets totally hammered. He gets in his car and drives home, somehow survives that, but because he's so drunk he actually passes out in the driver seat of his car after he parked it in front of his house.
That night he's woken up by the 1999 Izmit earthquake that hit the town with 7.4 on the Richter scale. It hit his town so hard, that the house of his family collapsed completely, killing everyone in the house. His parents, his siblings, his grandparents, both his uncles and aunts as well as some cousins.
The only reason he wasn't killed was because he passed out in his car.
16. Just had to get as far away as possible.
I was very close to WTC on 9/11. I was on the 9th floor of 222 Broadway facing World Trade. I was so close that after the first plane hit I had to crouch down in my window to see the impact site. Everybody was evacuated to the underground levels and sat tight. When the AC system was overwhelmed and the basement started filling up with smoke, I walked out and crossed into Brooklyn over the Manhattan bridge, and hiked home for 3 hours.
17. Never forget.
I was in the 1999 Izmit earthquake in turkey. I awoke in the middle of the night. My mom rushed into the bedroom me and my brothers were sleeping in and took us out of the apartment. Some buildings were damaged in our street but it wasn't terrible.
Two of my cousins died when their house collapsed on them. I never met the older one but younger one I still think about from time to time. I remember her smile and the way she would twirl with her dress. We were 9 years old.
18. Grandfather to the rescue.
My mother is a survivor of the Cambodian genocide, according to her, their family had to leave into the jungle, single file so that they didn't step on land mines (or rather minimize the risk) everything they did was in that line, where they had to constantly worry about guerrilla fighters and animals (story continued on the next page...).
A lot of people died along the way, and my grandfather ended up taking care of a lot of the kids who lost their family along the way. Once they reached Vietnam, they were greeted by American solders who told them it wasn't safe there, and made them turn back, the second time they tried they were greeted by the Red Cross who were evacuating people into America, my grandfather took one of the busses and told the rest of my "family" to do the same, in the mean time, they waited in the relief camp. Unfortunately, by the time the rest of my family was able to get on the busses, the U.S. Decided they had enough refugees, and the busses stopped coming. My family stayed in Vietnam for two years, my mom said she begged for food, as the older members were too proud. In America, my grandfather started a business, and once he had enough money, he bought plane tickets so that our family could reunite. The children that my grandfather saved went their own way after that, but we still keep in contact, recently we took a trip to Australia, and the man, who has a family now thanked my grandfather profusely for saving his life.
19. "Why was I saved? Who knows..."
I deployed to Afganistan in 2012. I was to be there for 9 months. Of course I did not want to go, but I joined the US Army two years prior and had to do what my country asked of me.
Around the end of May of the deployment, I was told I would be taken out of my team and put into the TOC (operations building) to help out for a few months because I don't know, I was just picked. So I obliged and did my new duty.
Then July 8th came around. I was told I was being put back into my team and I would continue my driving role. Yes! I missed my team and I hated being left behind when missions came up. Our mission on July 8th was to move out in a 4 truck convoy and deliver personnel to one of our larger bases about 30 minutes drive away so they may go home early. We packed all 4 MAXX-PRO's full, 7 people a truck. And then we got the trucks staged and ready to roll out of the front gate. I was turning on my truck when someone from the TOC came down and told me I was being pulled from this mission because the man in charge of the TOC needed my help with something. I didn't argue, thinking it was no big deal...it was a simple turn and burn to drop personnel off anyway, no biggie.
So I wander back to the TOC. When I get inside, I find out my name was pulled from driving and added with another Soldier from a different platoon in my place to drive my truck. I found out the reason I couldn't roll out was because I didn't finish my training duties to the person who would be replacing me. And since today's mission was a simple one, the man in charge said I should stay and finish training. I again did not argue.
I watched from our RAID camera as my squad of 4 trucks left our front gate. I watched them with the camera for 10 minutes in crystal clear HD vision as the IED went off on the convoy. The IED hit the last vehicle of the convoy. My vehicle. My teams vehicle. MY VEHICLE just got hit from an IED. I ran out and got the man in charge and all the other operation personnel.
6 died that day, to include the driver. 6 out of 7 in MY truck died that day. 2 years ago. I still struggle sometimes with survivors guilt. Like, why me? Why didn't I drive that day? Why was I saved? Who knows...
20. Who knows what could have happened.
Not a natural disaster, but My mom's family is from Iran. She was born there and grew up there. When the first stirrings of the revolution (the one that happened in the 70s) began and political unrest became apparent, my grandma packed the kids up and got out of the country. Their family was openly Jewish and staying in the country would have been bad.
21. Luckily they made it out.
This is a story from my parents. My mother and father were living in Cambodia at the time where the khmer rouge took place. Pretty much like a holocaust of Cambodia. My mother never really spoke of things that happened when I learned more about it growing up.
One day I'm giving her a nice massage for her tired legs and I have always noticed a couple white patch marks on her legs. I questioned her what it was and she hesitated St first but then replied " those are marks left from bullets". She had fled on countless occasions with my father from pol pots regime. But luckily there was a refugee camp supplied by Americans that assisted in the situation when she got shot. 2 on the left one on the right leg. Seeing dead bodies was a natural thing as they were attempting their escape. She had seen someone step on a landmine an blew to bits right in front of her before. Permanently scarred, she never tried speaking of these horrible stories. The american assisted in bringing my parents to Thailand where it was safer. My three oldest siblings were born there and eventually they left for the United States around 1988 if I am not mistaken.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.