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(Darwin NT )
That day n night will be etched in my memory for ever. to this day I hate big storms and can't stand wind and rain on my face.
I was 9 and we lived in 64 Lakeside Drive Alawa and went to St Pauls primary school. We had only been in Darwin 6 months when Tracy hit. I remember going to Cas shopping square with my mum who worked at Saunders the jewellers with my nanna. Every hour they would send me outside to tell them what the sky looked like.
I was confused by this but was told that a big storm was coming.
When we got home it was dark, it would have only been about 5.30 – 6.00pm. Mum started to do the trifles and cooking roasts etc for our big feast when she realized she had no jelly so I was sent to the shops to get some. It took me forever to get there and back as the wind was very strong. I remember hanging onto the fences along the way to get there and back but I came home with the jelly. We all went to my nannas n pops place in Fannie Bay for xmas eve festivities and around 9 or 10 pm the weather had worsened and it was suggested we all go home and get ready for the storm.
It took my mum ages to drive home as we were being blown all over the road. When we got home we were told to go to bed, I only ever wore tshirt n knickers to bed. Not long after this mum made us all (6 kids) go and hide in her bed and keep the blankets over our head. We heard this huge explosion then darkness, the dogs in neighbourhood were all howling (what a horrible scary sound)
Next minute all the louvres blew in, there was glass everywhere. Mum n George came and got us and took us into our little tiny bathroom. The toilet sounded like a ships foghorn. I will never forget that sound. Mum was hanging on to the shower curtain rod to hold the roof on and kept getting lifted with the roof. George screamed at her to let it go, when she did the roof blew away.
When the eye came George smashed the bathroom louvres with his fist and lifted each one of us out, the hallway wall was leaning over us. George yelled at us to run to the Italians next door. We got as far as the little fence when the wind picked up again. I remember hanging on to this wire fence and being blown about like a ragdoll. As we got to neighbours back door and were in their laundry with all of them when their roof blew off.I remember the Italian man had a chair over his head and was screaming and George slapped him. There was about 12 of us in this laundry with a hysterical Italian man.
Mum made us all start praying. I don't know how many our fathers or Hail Hary's were said that night but they must have worked as we are still here today.
Next morning we went outside and were stunned at the devastation around us. The neighbours house on the other side was untouched. I remember the Delos -something like that- living there but they went away for Xmas. The Italians over the back had minimal damage also. There was total devastation wherever you looked...the denuded trees and twisted steel power poles are things etched forever in your memory...No Birds but lots of displaced green ants, especially at Nannas house.
Our grandparents finally arrived and took us to Darwin High School, I remember seeing a couple of overturned boats, big fishing ones, on the beach and often wondered if all on board had made it.
We ended up having Xmas at nannas' house a few days later and even though it was not Xmas day in the usual sense it still held that wonderful childhood magical effect that only Xmas does for a child who still semi believed in Santa and wondering how our glorious precious gifts arrived.
Whilst at Darwin high I remember coming across the PE room and it had all these wonderful sporting goods. I recall being attracted to the archery equipment in a cupboard and the pitiful mewing of a cat coming from the cupboard. I tried to comfort the cat but a policeman took the cat away from me saying he knew who the owner was...They destroyed displaced and left behind pets...The makeshift toilets were primitive to the extreme but effective in stopping the spread of disease. Hessian cloth held up with star pickets to give you privacy...every day the toilets were filled in and a new area allocated...
I found the queues for food were a novelty as we had simple meals but it felt like a feast with so many people eating together at the one time. Whilst my mum and other adult family members helped out, us kids were left to amuse ourselves throughout the day...staying at the high school was like a small efficient town with strangers working side by side as though they had done it all their lives...I dont recall any grieving or crying from the loss we had experienced some worse than others but the overall effect was a community spirit that just got on with the job at hand.
We stayed at DHS for about a week before being evacuated to Pennington Hostel in Adelaide. I remember the typical excitement of catching our 1st plane. TAA I think it was as, I remember joining the aviation club for that airline and singing the catchphrase of the airline Up up and away with TAA or something to that effect...arriving at Brisbane airport was an eye opener and sooo cold ...there were thousands of people there. I was only in an oversized tshirt and knickers and having a blanket draped around us when we got to the terminal,. then all these kids were coming up and giving us toys. Some were wrapped in Xmas paper others weren't...
I don't recall the 2nd part of our journey to Adelaide. I may have been asleep for this but I do remember being herded like sheep on a bus that took us to this place with tin huts and long tin sheds which was Pennington Hostel in SA...This was to be our home for a time..slowly we built our lives back to what one could consider as normal and mum did the best she could under the circumstances. .But to be still haunted by vivid memories of the longest wettest night and to this day I cannot sleep if a cyclone is brewing or to handle wind and rain together.
Makes one think about those families who lost loved ones that night and how do they cope!
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