On February 3, 2011, I remember sitting up on the Internet all night when Cyclone Yasi struck North Queensland, desperately trying to keep track of friends living in its path. I simultaneously linked into blogs, webcams and Facebook, as the terror unfolded. One webcam showed Cairns as the winds were rising – the blogger talked about taking refuge in his bathroom when it became too dangerous to film anymore. I followed the ABC Live Blog, and watched live broadcasts from towns like Innisfail. Like the Japan tsunami disaster a month later. the power of the internet brought the scale of the horror home, wherever you were.
The image on the left is from NASA – it showed Yasi approaching Queensland, with the eye very clearly visible in the centre. It looked huge and threatening, and while we livws further down the coast, and were unlikely to be badly affected, it was clear that those in its path would find a drasticacally changed landscape after Yasi passed through.
My brave friend June Perkins, who lived with her husband David and their children at Mission Beach, where Yasi made landfall, kept her fearful circle of friends up to date on their plight. The Perkins family were hoping to remain in their home, but in the end were driven out by Yasi’s fury. By the time it made landfall, Yasi was category 5, ripping trees out of the earth, crushing houses, causing many injuries and tragically, one death.
The aftermath was traumatic, as people struggled to put their lives back together, their homes and their stability torn apart by that raging storm. It must have seemed as if no one would ever smile again. Through it all, June kept listening, talking, sharing and recording their impressions of the struggle back to normality. No one can really imagine, unless they have experienced it, what it is like to have everything ripped away in one terrible night. But June understood and knew what to listen for, and look for, in the voices and faces around her.
The result of that patient listening and record keeping is After Yasi, an extraordinary eBook that focuses on the struggle to find a reason to smile again, rather than the one night it took to tear it away. Rising from the wreckage were voices of hope, moments of joy; but most of all, the relief that comes with knowing that things can be lost and let go, but the survival of your family, friends and neighbours is beyond price.
The eBook is an interactive experience that links to blogs and sources that show how people coped with the cyclone and the aftermath. It’s a rich trail of material that celebrates the human spirit in all its facets – despair, pain, recovery, optimism and resilience.
Among the highlights for me are Christine Jenkins and the anchor she tied to her house; Mr Hardy and his chainsaw optimism; and the wonderful poem Cassowaries Can Fly.
As June said, Yasi brought out life’s poets – it brought out life’s warrior poets, fighting the crushing sadness and bewilderment that follows a disaster of this scale, and soldiering on, rebuilding, recreating and most of all, finding that lost smile within to share with others and bring them hope and joy.
“For me, recovery means normality, being productive and looking forward.” – Lydia Valeriano – Blog: Writers on the Storm. Just one of the many moving and memorable quiotes from the book.
After Yasi is a source of inspiration for all those recovering from trauma, an amazing effort by an amazing group of people. More than that, it is part of our history now, a testament to the resilience and courage of our firends and neighbours.
Don’t forget to leave a comment – the best will win a photographic print or a copy of the ebook! Do you have a memory of following the path of Yasi on the Internet that night, of fearing for friends and relatives in Far North Queensland or coping with the knowledge you and those you loved were in its path? Please share in the comments.