A single tremble quivered beneath my feet. I perceived a faint growl in the distance. The trees hovering above me began to sway intensively while the tall grass grazing my ankles stirred in an unruly pattern. Then came the silence, the loathsome, deadly silence that could only mean one thing— destruction.
Everything was a blur when my eyes hazily opened again. The sky was foggy, and its blue hue was covered by a hideous gray smog. The grayness was suffocating. The repugnant fog kept me from seeing the things around me clearly. I felt the roughness of the pavement from the sidewalk under my arms and legs. I tried to stand up, but my body was motionless. Pain surged through me with every movement I attempted to make. I had no strength to position myself on my feet. I slowly craned my neck to the left to face the houses that had once lined up so fittingly along my neighborhood block.
Every house, tree, and object that was once intact was now in ruins. My vision blurred even more when I saw the remains of my house. The tree in my front yard was lying on the ground with brambles all around it, its bright yellow swing set that I used to push my little sister on was unattached but close to it. My house that used to contain all the happiness in the world was now simply a pile of shattered pieces. My lovely house that was filled with countless memories of my parents, my siblings, and my dog was no longer existent. I thought of my parents’ warm smiles while cooking chaotically in the kitchen. I thought of all the times I chased my little brother and sister around the house while my dog tagged along behind us. I thought of the times my family was there for me and the joy I encountered from them. I closed my eyes and let their memories replay over and over again in my head. Images of them were carved in my mind, so I let the darkness sweep over me completely just so I could see them vividly one last time.
I regained a bit of my strength after lying limp on the ground for some time, but my mind was still a blazing fire. I mindlessly hobbled around, passing by mounds of rubble and broken bricks though not really processing anything in my head at all. My eyes viewed different things, different places, and even different people, but I walked on as a mindless zombie, having no reaction to anything around me at all. All I could think of was how much I’d miss my family.
Years have passed since the tragedy that struck me years ago, but that day is still etched in my head. I’ve thought of my family every day since the earthquake took them away from me. I have been coping with my grief and have regained part of myself through a long period of time. There were things that I never wanted to admit, things that I always kept hidden.
Truthfully, years ago on that horrifying day that my family died, right when I opened my eyes to the terrifying fog, I already knew that they were gone. I knew exactly what had happened. I always knew the place where I lived was prone to natural disasters since it had been struck by earthquakes multiple times in the decade before, but I had never experienced a terror as abhorrent as that earthquake. The earthquakes that I had experienced before had never affected me. They were always somewhat minor and at most had only taken down a couple of trees, but that earthquake was much more. It was much worse than anything I had endured in my lifetime. It was like a frightening nightmare I could never wake up from— a nightmare where I would always be grasping to get out of the constant darkness enveloping around me, but no matter how hard I flailed around, there would always be something or someone pulling me back, drowning me in the cloud of darkness that would eventually fill my throat and seep out from my eyes, always gripping onto me until there was not a trace of me left. That nightmare that was a reality to me kept me buried in my sadness and haunted me incessantly. After the incident, I had nightmares day after day that replayed the same scenes in my head. The gray fog, the destroyed houses, and the wounded people became demons that crawled over me as I slept.
I never thought I would be okay again after the earthquake. I never thought I could be happy again, at least not happy like I was when I was a child with my loving family, and I didn't have any worries at all. I didn’t want to admit that everyone I loved had left me alone in this vast darkness. I didn’t want to let go of the ones I loved, but I knew I couldn’t hold on to my grief forever.
Because of my devastating experience, I now try to help others that endured the same thing I went through. I visit places where natural disasters have hit, and I help the survivors by building shelter, providing medical care as well as food and water, and accompanying those grieving for loved ones they have lost.
Today, I am going on a trip to Southern California to help survivors of a recent earthquake. I see the same sights I saw the day a monstrous earthquake took my family, and it brings back the old memories of my pain and suffering, but I remember that there are people like me here. There are men, women, and young children wounded, sobbing, and mourning for the deaths of those around them. People that have come to help these survivors gather them together and mend their wounds. I take a look around the area to see if there are any remaining survivors to assist.
Then, I see her. A young girl near the remnants of a house is lying still while weeping into her arm. She is completely alone. She is just like I was. I walk toward her, and I think about how tragedy keeps on occurring in this world. Everyday, misfortune hits somebody, and pain is inevitable, but we endure. My pain was excruciating; losing my family was unbearable, but because of my life changing experience, I am strong, I am valiant, and I ameliorate the lives of those who are suffering like I was. When I reach the girl, she stares at me with mournful eyes, and I gently stick out my hand for her to hold onto. One day, she may impact others the way I impacted her. She clutches my hand tightly, and together, we look for a brighter future where we can help those around us and change the world starting with one earthquake at a time.