It’s one thing to hear about a disaster on the other side of the world but it’s another thing entirely to actually live through it.
That was the lesson that Clearwater resident Jessica Gunn, her father Grant and her brother Cody brought back after experiencing and surviving the earthquake in Nepal last April that killed more than 8,000 people.
“It was about noon on April 25,” said Jessica Gunn. “We were on a street in Kathmandu, looking for our favorite bakery. We hear a noise that sounded like a big dump truck coming up behind us. We looked over our shoulders for the truck when the buildings started to buck and the street to roll.
“I yelled, ‘Earthquake!’ The shaking was so violent you could barely stand up. We hugged a post in a more stable building to try to stay safe.
“It went on for a minute or maybe a minute-and-a-half. It was just a weird sensation. After it was over you asked yourself, ‘Did that just happen?’”
The devastation after the earthquake was extensive.
They saw people who had been hit by bricks and other falling debris. Houses and other buildings had collapsed, while many of those still standing were leaning or had cracks in them. There were cracks in the ground as well.
Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site nearby, was completely flattened.
The Gunns had been to Nepal several times before and had stayed at their hotel three times.
Once the shaking stopped they went back to the hotel and grabbed the essentials.
“The hotel is still run by the same people,” Jessica said. “They were really good to us. They made sure we were looked after.
Because the Gunns had arrived in Nepal just a few hours earlier, they had no Nepali currency. Interestingly, they were able to get cash out of a bank machine. It was only about six hours after the quake that all power went out.
That night a young man, a street vendor, showed up at the hotel with a bike loaded down with momos (Nepali dumplings) and egg rolls. The food was greatly appreciated.
The Gunns tried staying in their hotel the first night but constant after-shocks meant they had to run outside twice. Eventually, they moved into an open construction site where many other people were taking shelter.
They went to the Canadian consulate but were sent from there to the British embassy. After lining up there for two hours they were told to go to the American Club, which is located behind the American embassy.
The Clearwater residents stayed there for three days, living off army rations.
“We kept going back to the egg roll guy. His food was really good,” Jessica Gunn said.
The Gunns had taken a stock of surplus medical supplies from Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital with them to Nepal for a hospital outside Kathmandu.
After the quake struck they took the supplies to the Red Cross.
“They were happy to have them,” said Jessica, “except they asked us to catalog them. Nothing like asking foresters to catalog medical supplies.”
Five days after the earthquake hit, they finally were able to fly out.
Since then the Gunns have been involved in various efforts, such as the games day held at Clearwater ski hill recently, to raise funds to help Nepal.
Below: Jessica, Grant and Cody Gunn wear big smiles soon after arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal. A few hours later, an earthquake struck.