One week after returning from earthquake-devastated Nepal, Kiah Ellis-Durity can’t help but wonder why – why it happened where it did and when it did, and how it is that she is among the survivors.
“Going on this trip and realizing death is kind of random and you just kind of miss it or you don’t miss it,” she said Wednesday, reflecting on the experience from her perch in an Adirondack chair in her family’s South Surrey backyard.
“It could’ve been me. A lot of the families didn’t get out. Why some people and not some people?”
Ellis-Durity, 18, was hours away from flying out of Katmandu when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck around noon on April 25. She had been in the country as a volunteer for about five weeks, teaching English and science to monks and nuns.
In the weeks since, the death toll has surpassed 7,500.
When the quake hit, the teen was walking along a street. She knew right away what was happening; the gravity of just how bad it was came a bit later.
She saw blood on the street, cracked roads, shattered windows and a taxi that had been crushed by a fallen utility pole.
“I saw all these buildings that had fallen, with the police trying to pick up pieces of brick,” Ellis-Durity said.
On an hour-long walk back to one of the monasteries she had stayed at, locals “told me a family of eight had died in the house I just passed.”
While so much of what happened doesn’t make sense to the teen, Ellis-Durity is clear on one thing: she has to help.
A fundraiser is being planned – details to be announced once finalized – that will take advantage of matching funds being offered by the federal government through the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. She hopes friends and former Elgin Park Secondary classmates and teachers will pitch in, along with the community as a whole.
“Nepal needed a lot of help before the earthquake,” she said.
At the same time, her own family is planning to do what they can to help the co-ordinator of the group Ellis-Durity had been working with.
Named Gagan, the Nepalese man “was amazing,” in the wake of the earthquake, said Ellis-Durity. Not only did he get the teen out of the monastery and to the airport, he was the first to check that she had made it home OK. She still doesn’t know if he found a cousin of his who was missing after the earthquake.
Ellis-Durity said she’s not sure if she’s a different person as a result of her experience, but there are things that have changed.
“I’m viewing things differently. Putting things into perspective.”
And though, at times, she still feels as though the shaking hasn’t stopped, she doesn’t regret her decision to travel to Nepal.
“I’m glad I went… you can’t take that experience back.”