Not many people would know it, but my first Christmas Day was spent in the arms of my mother, as she walked around the ruins of cyclone Tracey, in Darwin. We were living in Darwin at the time and I was just 6 months old. My older sister was nearly two years. Everything we had was destroyed.
But the stories I have heard, told by my mother, bring with it a mixture of fear, dred and would you believe it - a good dose of overwhelming respect and love for the surivors.
But there's another side to life after you survive something so totally devastating - and yes, I'm thinking now to the Bushfires in Victoria that has claimed so many lives too. And that is the overwhelming desire to forge ahead. So many people I'm told through my mother's stories, yearned to grab hold of something again and shape it back into something they recognised. After the immediate threat to their lives was over, they wanted desperately to bring normality back.
But when they rebuild - and they will rebuild - the survivors will tell their own stories. Not of the brutal tragedy itself, but of the people who touched their souls during the time they lost everything. My mother still remembers the name of the Salvation Army guy who collected her from the phonebooth that she collapsed in - calling for help. This was after we were evacuated from Darwin. She didn't know anyone where we were dropped off, she wandered off in shock with her two young daughters in tow. During the whole event she had forgotten to eat and drink. It was the needs of her two children which brought her to the phone booth in the first place.
She called the Salvation Army phone number asking for help - where she met a complete stranger on the other end. He didn't know her but then he knew she had been evacuated from Darwin. He told her to wait at the phone booth and found her unconscious with her two crying daughters by her side.
Now I can't remember any of this, and funnily enough there are gaps in my mother's own recollection of after the cyclone. She doesn't remember the Salvation Army guy collecting her from the phone booth for example. Or even how she found herself in the warm bed, with my sister by her side. It's scary to think such a tragedy could do that to a human being, but survival is strong and recovery in those who do, extremely determined.
The moral of this story is, not everything is lost that day you lose everything. Although battered and bruised, the heart desires to grap hold of something and forge a future ahead. Let us be determined for them, more than we pity what they've lost. For their strength and their reason for living is what they manage to claw back.
I must say that I'm overjoyed at the donations and desire to help those in need - even the animals who are also casualties of this tragedy in Victoria.
Hope continues...let us feed it.