Surviving Cyclone Tracy
by Helen Randall
SURVIVING CYCLONE TRACY
My family and I are from Cyprus and we moved to Darwin in 1969. Cyprus was heading for war so my father decided that he could give us a better life in Australia.
Darwin was beautiful and we settled in happily. My father was a cabinet maker and my mother stayed home with the children. My father bought a home in the suburb of Jingalee and the arrival of our brother came soon after. It was Christmas Eve 1974 when my father took us out to celebrate with friends. I was nine, my sister seven and my brother two. On the radio there were warnings that a cyclone was heading for Darwin. Since Darwin was prone to storms my father thought nothing of it.
The warnings kept coming but at one stage the radio announced that the cyclone had turned back and was heading away from Darwin. My parents were relieved and we stayed out for the Christmas celebrations. When we eventually arrived back home mum tucked us safely into our beds, unaware that the cyclone had turned back towards Darwin.
It was about 11pm at night and the weather started to pick up - rain, thunder and the winds were howling, my parents came into our room and moved us out. I remember the roof collapsing and spearing my sister’s bed just as they removed us from our beds. My father insisted we get into the car and go back to our friend’s concrete home, just as we tried to escape more of the roof collapsed and blocked the entrance of the house, thankfully we didn't make it out. My father realised there was no escape, it was too dangerous to drive. He quickly moved us into the spare room where we huddled together in a corner; there we would stay for a frightening 6 hours. I remember the noise of the wind, it sounded like airplanes landing above our house. The rain and the lightning were just as furious. We all started to pray asking God to keep us safe. A lot more of the roof had now collapsed, the walls were moving from side to side, the house filling with water, the only time we could see anything was when the thunder struck.
Debris was falling and flying around us, still huddled together we kept praying to God for this to end. My mum recalls me praying to St Nektarios (a Greek saint), she had his picture on the wall in front of us. Mum recalls that every time the lightning struck she could see me with my little hands together, my eyes looking up to the heavens calling out to St Nektarios asking him to protect us. Mum remembers my words of reassurance, telling them not to fear, we would be safe, we were protected.
It was not until the morning that the storm would ease and we could see what had happened. We were shaken and soaking in our own urine, our reaction to the extreme fear. We had endured a long and unforseen night of terror but we had survived. This is where the Red Cross came in and helped us put our lives back together again. Left with nothing but the clothes on our backs we had to start over again.
The Red Cross gave us water and food and the government flew us to Perth where we were housed in the Army Barracks. In Perth the Red Cross supplied us with food, clothing, toiletries, blankets and even Christmas toys. After several weeks we rented a housed and once again the Red Cross stepped in and filled our home with furniture, blankets, electrical goods, and much more. Without the generosity of this organisation our lives would not be the same.
I thank the Red Cross for its generosity and compassion; I will never forget how they helped put our lives back together.