Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Special Collections Fossickings 19: Calm after the storm: community reflections on disaster

“Then there was silence
The fate of nature
The terror of the storm was revealed”
Terrifying as a cyclone can be at its peak, the aftermath can be even harder to endure – the first moments of seeing the extent of the damage, and the weeks or months of reliving the nightmares while dealing with the consequences. In recent years North Queenslanders have found that telling their stories in words or pictures can be a powerful path to recovery. The lines above were written by 9-year-old Sinead Cristaudo and appeared in “Cyclone Larry: tales of survival” – a book published exclusively to allow children to express their emotions and provide their personal record of events. A separate community venture, “Taken by storm”, gave a voice to many of the adults who had endured the wrath of Larry, from Mission Beach to the Tablelands.  Adrianne Smith writes:
When Cyclone Larry passed
There was silence
Between lost sound systems and generators,
When no one moved or spoke…

Just five years later Maureen Clifford was writing in “The True Spirit of Yasi
Slowly people start emerging – shell shocked survivors – disbelief
Plainly written on their faces, many tears but great relief

In “Cyclone Yasi: our stories”, Cardwell school children created a collage of words and phrases to cover the four stages of the storm: Before, During, After and Now.
Together these four books, all held in the North Queensland Collection, preserve far more than the bare statistics of economic loss and structural damage. They present the thoughts and feelings of a community, of how people responded to disaster and how they learned to recover. They also indicate how giving children and adults the opportunity to talk or write about such traumatic experiences can help to calm – as one writer puts it – “the cyclone of our mind.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. It's wonderful that our north Queensland collection is in such good hands!