A noisy end to my honeymoon.

by Sarah Amies
(Shoalwater WA)

On Friday December 13th 1974 I married my husband Harry and we left for our honeymoon in Singapore.

We arrived back in Darwin at 5am on Christmas Eve. We showered and slept until midday then got ready for Christmas Day. That evening we went round to our friends to deliver the presents we had bought in Singapore. At 11pm we were leaving the nightclub on East Point Road and by then the wind was so strong we had to pull ourselves down the outside stairs. That's when I knew we were in for a direct hit.

We went home and tried to sleep but the noise was deafening by then. I was listening to the radio but that went off and we were in the dark. We got up and moved to the hallway and sat under a table we had wedged into the small space for the rest of the night.

At one stage the bedroom window blew out and showered glass all over the bed. The big plate glass front window was flexing in and out with the pressure changes. During a lull I jumped up and released the window and saved the glass.

After 6 hours of sheer terror the noise stopped and I stepped out of the front door to a scene a utter devastation. I thought We were the only ones left alive. Everything around us was in ruins. Then at about 6am I saw another woman crawl out of her house across the street. We waved and cried and started to look for others.

We were lucky, our flat was only slightly damaged, one of the few still habitable. My car, parked on the street only had the tail light broken! Once we knew we were OK and all The other people in the block of flats were OK I had to go and find my friends in Moil.

It was only 12 ks but it took me hours to get to their house. The roads were strewn with debris, trees, belongings and cars. Worst of all was the lack of any visual clues for directions of where to turn.

When I got there their house was scraped clean to the floorboards and when I looked around every house was the same. After that I went into shock and can't remember much more. Don't know how I got home but I did. Our friends had made it to the shelters and we rescued them from there. Our flat was dry so we brought them home until they were evacuated. At one time we had 12 people sleeping on the floors. They all had shredded feet because they had to walk to the shelters in bare feet over glass, wood, nails, wire.

My husband volunteered to help at the airport unloading emergency supplies and reloading evacuees. He worked from7am until 7pm and came home exhausted every night I was a teacher and we were all called up to report and clear schools.

Once the shock had worn off and the evacuees had gone we all settled down to pull the town into some sort of order. We neither had nor needed any money, banks stayed shut. The schools were food centres, we cooked over fires and showered at the stopcock on the Suart Highway near Parap.

Finally the water came on, then sometime weeks later we had power. The best day of all was the day the ice factory opened and we could finally have a cold drink. We queued and queued for a bag of ice and the smiles were a mile wide.
By this time there were 11000 people left in town and we had this wonderful sense of purpose in adversity.

I have lots more stories about the aftermath, and how we coped. It is still raw and for 39years I had this dread. Will this be the wet we have another cyclone. At the end of each wet I had a huge sense of relief, another year without a cyclone.

Last year I moved to Perth but still miss Darwin. It is a wonderful city.

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