My name is Eleanora. I’m 14. A year and a day ago I was celebrating my birthday. A year ago today was a day like no other. I’ll tell you why.
I was playing with some friends in a park near my house. My younger brother was there too. There was nothing to make us feel that it was going to be a day different to any other.
I fell down. I saw my friends were on the ground too. I looked for my brother—he had been playing football. He was standing holding the goalposts. It looked like the goalposts had come alive and were shaking him from side to side.
Buildings around us were moving; some of them were crumbling like they were made of sand. I shouted my brother’s name as loud as I could but I don’t think he could hear me. There was so much noise.
I heard car alarms going off and then bricks crashed to the ground as they fell from the sides of buildings. I looked back at my brother, he hadn’t moved. I had to get to him but it wasn’t going to be easy.
I think the ground had stopped shaking but I wasn’t sure. I was shocked by what I thought was a long black snake slithering across the field. I soon realized it was a crack opening up in the ground. My first thought was to get to my brother. I couldn’t risk him running across the field and another big, black snake appearing! I motioned with my hands for him to stay where he was. It was the same hand gesture I used when I picked him up after school and I didn't want him to run across the road. I prayed he would understand.
Some of my friends were crying. None of us knew what to do. I think by now we had realized it was an earthquake. The ground had stopped moving so I ran across the field to my brother. He was crying and saying…
over and over again.
Things hadn’t calmed down after the quake had stopped. If anything, things had gotten a whole lot worse. Now we could hear screaming and shouts for help.
A couple of my friends followed me and we agreed to go back to our houses to find our parents. This wasn’t going to be easy. The little, narrow streets leading home were blocked by debris. As we made our way, bricks were still falling so we had to be very careful. Then we heard extremely loud bangs. It was the sound of explosions. Flames began to appear. There were five of us trying to get back to our neighborhood. For some reason I seemed to be the one people were following and I had no idea what to do. I remembered my mom always telling me to look after my little brother, she would say…“When I’m not around, it’s your job to take care of him.”
Thinking of my mom gave me courage and hope that I would find a way home.
I couldn’t help them. I had to get my brother home.
My friends were relying on me too.
I looked for landmarks that weren’t there anymore.
Between us, somehow, my friends and I navigated our way back to our almost unrecognizable neighborhood. I guess the water pipes must have broken because there was lots of water gushing out of the ground. Electricity wires were hanging from broken buildings. I knew water and electricity were not a good mix. How many more hazards would we face?
Friends peeled off from our little group as we reached their houses. I wanted to wait with them but I was desperate to see if my parents were okay so my brother and I kept going. What a site awaited us! Three walls of our house had collapsed. Only one was left . I knew it was our house because the wall still had a painting on it that I recognized. Why hadn’t that fallen, I wondered.We ran over to the rubble and heard some voices. “Mama, Papa!” we shouted. We were both crying.
The noises that came back were muffled. We pulled the bricks away one by one. I don’t know how long we were doing that for but eventually we found them. My mom had dragged my dad underneath a table when the ground started to shake. The table protected them when the bricks of the house came down on top of them.
Some of my friends weren’t as lucky as us and lost family. Life was completely different after the earthquake. My school’s building was completely destroyed. Rebuilding the neighborhood was slow. The government said our new houses would be built to withstand earthquakes.
Celebrating my birthday this year has been very different to last year. We don't have a house anymore, we are living in a tent on that same field where we first felt the quake.But it doesn't matter.