By sharing my story, I’m hoping to bring comfort to survivors of the same ordeal while in turn giving people a greater understanding so they may express empathy to those survivors they meet.
Thankfully all my family were safe, however I know FIRST HAND exactly what the homeless survivors are going through.
I was on my lunch break when I first saw the large billows of smoke coming from the location of my family's home in the Adelaide Hills - A day that was named 1980 Ash Wednesday. I really wanted to go home when I got back to work, but as I was only 18, I was too shy to ask to leave early. Surely, I thought, my boss knew about the fires... Well for whatever reason, nothing was said and I was handed more and more work to do - perhaps they were trying to keep my mind occupied.
A couple of times I had tried to ring home, but the lines were only spasmodically working. Through the next few hours I had received a couple of phone calls that infamous afternoon from my parents. They were at home, very busy with all the precautionary things to do and were keeping me up to date, when the phone lines allowed. The last phone call I received was from my dad to say that our home was safe and to "Come on home, everything is OK." Those words kept playing over and over in my mind and I left work at 5.30pm with relief and reassurance. On my way home, I called by my Grandparents home to let them know the latest that all was OK. Driving up the freeway the smoke was more apparent now and I was keen to get home. The traffic seemed a bit heavier than normal and as a result I couldn’t take my usual exit. No big deal I can just go to the next one. I did this and by now the smoke was getting heavy. After a while, I was driving toward the top end of our road and up ahead I saw the flashing lights from the CFS trucks as they had blocked off the road’s entrance. I was really determined to get home now and my heart rate was building. So turning back I took a couple of side streets and got onto a road that would take me to the lower end of our long road. Getting more anxious as the smoke grew thicker; it was getting more difficult to see as I drove round each bend in the windy road. I saw trees alight with fire, a small shed on fire, which I thought I’d better tell someone about, and burning logs on the road. Some I had no choice but to drive over. Then as visibility worsened, I swerved to miss a CFS truck. All this made a sense of urgency, and I was even more determined to get home. As my destination grew closer, I had no idea what to expect. Finally turning right and heading up our road, the car stalled simultaneously as I caught the first glimpse of our home that will stay with me forever. Through the flood of tears that poured from my eyes, all I could focus on were those large bright red, orange, yellow flames, huge flames that were coming out of what were the windows of our home. The roof was collapsing which only seemed to feed this hungry evil monster… What a painful shock after hearing those comforting words to come on home everything is ok even though driving through what I just had, I knew it could not be.
It was such a humbling experience going to the shop the next day, thanks to a dear friend, buying a toothbrush, underwear etc simply because we didn't have anything!!!
Another great loss was Bunty our 13 year old pet cat. The next morning, I over heard my dad saying that he found Bunty stretched out near the ‘front’ door
We did rebuilt 9 months later. We rented at Hahndorf for a while, then Bridgewater. Often, during those times, we would come home and find a box of food, clothing, linen, kitchen stuff. In time of need people ARE amazing
Yes it was a dreadful experience and it does take time assimilate. BUT like every experience, you can grow from it if you choose to. Above all, Make Each Day Count
I must add that the experience has made me very wary giving money to charites/organisations. I prefer to give money directly to the homeless people I see on the street.