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Rodney, Bob and I were in an elevated house in Wagaman in 1974. On Christmas eve Rodney and I went to the Berrimah Hotel and Bob went his own way. We got home after getting chico rolls from the Airport Gates Servo to find Bob asleep in bed, well primed.
We went to our rooms but the buffetting from the wind kept us awake. I got up to find Rodney mopping up water that had come through the louvers. I said that we could worry about that in the morning and that I was getting back into my panelvan and driving to the school where I was sure to find some protection from the wind. There was no damage at this stage so we left Bob snoring and headed for the school. I drove up 3 steps into a covered lunch area and settled down.
A roller door on the tuckshop broke loose and made enough noise to wake us. The wind had shifted so I moved the car to a better position. From here we were able to see the street, illuminated by lightning. There wasn't a house standing. What fate had befallen our mate, Bob?
Shortly later there was a banging on the drivers door and a now sober, drenched Bob climbed in over me. We had never been so happy to see a mate as then.
A neighbour joined us because he couldn't locate his wife or kids and needed help. I fired up the PV and started for his house. It was ok initially with the wind, but we couldn't turn. We were now in the open and roofing iron soon piled up at the back of the car. The rear window smashed showering us with glass. I offered the neighbour 2 choices. Sit it out with us or head home alone. He stayed.
At the first glimpse of daylight we drove from our cocoon of iron and headed for the neighbours wreckage. His wife had been in the car and was ok. The kids went into a wardrobe which blew over onto the doors, and they were ok.
We then did a door to door and everyone we located was fine. No injuries. We organised the neighbourhood to head for the school which was in reasonable nick. We broke in and got people as comfortable as possible. The alarm was sounding at the flattened Wagaman shop so we got some necessary supplies for everyone. We pooled our resources and food was prepared. 2 Sao biscuits with a slice of tomato was Christmas lunch.
My parents and siblings were in Fannie Bay so I let it be known that I was heading there if the roads were open. Two blokes joined us, Ali and George and off we went. After surviving Tracey, nothing seemed impossible.
We got there and some of my family had been injured but were ok.
Rodney was killed in a speedway accident in 1977, and Bob now lives in Chareville. I moved to Darwin River in 1981 and am still here.
I spoke to Bob on the phone the other day, as I do every Christmas day.
27 December 2009.
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