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by Sean Ockenden
I was 10, with a younger sister and even younger brother. Dad was in the RAAF and we lived on the base with mum and Tiddles the cat. By the time the wind really started to pick up we were tucked safely in bed. About 9pm that night my sister came out of her bedroom and started walking down the hallway. Dad saw her and walked down to put her back into bed. As he passed my bedroom a 40ft piece of corrugated iron came through the louver windows at waist height. He'd just gone past where it came through, otherwise it would have cut him in half. It slammed through my bedroom wall and angled down, slicing my pillow in two and burying itself into the bed springs, ripping apart the mattress. I was curled into the foetal position at the bottom of the bed. If i hadn't been down there it would have carved my head into crinkle cut chips. At some point during the eye of the storm we headed next door to the neighbors house as we only really had 2 half walls standing, making a nice little right angle L at the outside of the kitchen.
We were in the neighbours house when the adults decided we should go to the room furthest away from the wind and where there were 2 single beds we could all hide under. As we walked away from the kitchen a telephone pole came through the kitchen wall horizontally and ended up just sitting there. We all walked away from that one - just. We got to the bedroom, slipped down onto the floor and hid under the beds in about 3 inches of rain water. I needed to go to the toilet and stood up to go find it!! Mum saw me and asked me what the hell i was doing.. "going to the toilet, i need a wee" was the innocent reply. Everyone yelled and screamed to "get down; just do it in your pants" - quite disgusting really when you think about it and quite demeaning for a 10 year old to be told to wet yourself in front of 7 other people. As i walked away from the doorway to get back under the bed the ceiling crashed down and hit me in the left temple, cutting me and leaving a nice scar. The complete roof was sucked off the house about 3 seconds later and i managed to crawl under the bed, mainly because the collapsing ceiling had already knocked me down.
We waited all night and in the early morning light we heard voices. We weren't dead, we'd made it. RAAF firies pulled us out of the rubble and took us to the base hospital on the fire truck. Us 3 kids had t-shirts and undies to wear, mum and dad had clothing on as they weren't asleep like we were. I remember looking back at the house as we drove away and all i could see was a couple of stubby walls and a flat floor.
We never saw Tiddles again and the only thing that survived the onslaught that was Tracy was my mums christmas present from dad; A brand new Kenwood Chef mixer. The box was gone, all the attachments were gone, but it sat there on the bottom of the box wrapped in plastic and it still works to this day. Kenwood even replaced all the missing bits. We were evacced out about 3 days later on a Hercules, all the way to Laverton, Victoria.
I've never been back although my dad did go in 1984 after he'd left the RAAF. His job with a private company took him back so he could help redesign and rebuild the transmission towers for ABC Radio Australia.
I'm going back one day very soon. I'm 47 now and i really want to spend some time in the place where we had an absolute ball for 3 1/2 years. Tracy gave me lasting memories and a love of BIG storms with lots of lightning. I remember it to this day, but i'll never go through anything like it again.....i have a licence now and know how to drive.
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