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Title: Walker family story - Ambon Street Wagaman
Name: Hendry, Deb
My Story: Our Cyclone Tracy Memories (the night from hell) - Michelle Walker Roberts (aged 20), Deb Walker Hendry (aged 14) and Jannine Walker Hardy (aged 12).It was Christmas Eve 1974 and Michelle's 21st birthday pending on Xmas Day (luckily we had the party the weekend before). Our interstate relatives staying with us that night were Nanna, Pop, and an Uncle with our family being Mum, Dad, us three girls and our three pets. Our home was in Ambon Street, Wagaman. We were all in for more than we bargained for and a night to remember. As daylight faded and the rain and winds picked up dad decided to take heed of the warnings and started to tie all the loose objects down. When he came in his eyes were red raw from the wind and salt water that he was getting pounded with. Around 9pm our elevated house began to leak, mainly through the louvers which were bowing and could not keep the water out. We moved the christmas tree and presents further away but after half an hour the water was all over the floor so the pressies went up on the table. Later that night, Jannine opened the back door to get the mop to mop the floors. Dad panicked and told her to leave the mop as it was too dangerous outside. By 11pm all power was off, and just after midnight we could hear the sounds of screaming metal, nails separating from the roof and other items hitting our house. We were all lumped together in the hallway just near the entrance to the bathroom. Mum and Michelle were panicking and having some sort of shouting match, thankfully not much was heard by anyone and god knows what was said, except they were both hysterical. Dad told them to hold it together and not panic. Next thing our neighbours were shouting and banging on the back door, Dad let them in and found that their house had exploded, god knows how they made it to our place with minimal injuries. Not long after that the men decided for everyone to evacuate downstairs to the cement block storeroom as it seemed more secure. We had to go down the stairs on our bums one at a time, everyone close together. Dad was the last to go down and he looked in their bedroom which was the room near the stairs and saw their bed being sucked up, spiralling and out of what was their bedroom, the roof had gone. Dad being a collector, had several large drums, and all the leftover booze from the 21st, pots, pans and goodness knows what else packed in the storeroom which was not a big area. We all squeezed into it, sat huddled together on these items and tried to stay dry but we got drenched anyway!. For safety, we put the pots on our heads. We have never been so cold. No-one could talk above the screaming sound of wind, flying roof tin and other debris. We did not get the 'eye' that others talk about so it was relentless until around 6.30am. Apparently there was thunder and lightning but we don?t recall seeing any. Remembering it was Michelle?s 21st Birthday and Christmas day we sung Happy Birthday and the odd carol to take our minds off what was happening around us. When the wind eased and dawn broke Dad attempted to open the door but there was a big steel post against the door that had to be moved. When we went outside the store room, many of the besser blocks were coming apart at the mortar and we don?t know how much longer we could have endured the battering. We were so frightened and were amazed that we actually came through it alive and physically unscathed. Our emotions are hard to describe we were scared of what we would find and that we may be the only survivors, and at the same time feeling guilty but grateful to be alive. Luckily, we were spared from seeing anything other than our neighbours / friends dazed and just sitting in their cars and the total devastation for miles. From our house we could see the ocean and the water tank several kilometers away at Nightcliff / Rapid Creek, which we could not see before. A short time later a person came to tell us to go to Wagaman Primary School as Tracy was coming back. Upon arriving, people were already there or arrived after us - many had various injuries. Later, we were invited to go to the 'farm' at Noonamah. Getting there was an adventure in itself which took hours to get to as the debris choked roads. Mum drove the car while dad and others walked beside the car to clear a path. We had only the clothes that we stood up in and odd shoes that we found. We bathed all together in the Elizabeth River once a day. When the mass evacuation of all women and children started Deb drove out to Karratha in one of our cars with an Uncle, Aunty, cousin and our dog Lassie as he would have been shot if he stayed due to the fear of spreading any disease. Dad stayed to rebuild and the rest of us were evacuated to Perth, it was amazing landing in Port Hedland where the Salvos and Red Cross workers gave out packages to everyone, in it were disposable knickers, toothbrush and toothpaste. What a wonderful gesture and we have been grateful and supportive of these groups ever since. This uninvited experience that we all shared changed the old Darwin as we knew it, a lifestyle we loved and our lives forever. 40 years on, so many survivors are still struggling but sharing our stories in an effort to heal our individual, emotional and physical scars. This photo is taken standing in the same place before and after the cyclone (by coincidence). The before (top) one you can just see the louvers of our main bedroom, the neighbour's house across the road and a bit of Wagaman School. The below (after) one you can see the same louvers and what was our main bedroom, the house across the road totally destroyed, all of Wagaman School and the Water Tower all the way at Chapman Road, Rapid Creek, Nightcliff.
Use and Restrictions: Cycle Tracy Story Project Agreement
Subject: Cyclone Tracy, 1974
Place: Wagaman
File type: image/jpeg
application/pdf
Appears in Collections:Cyclone Tracy
Territory Times Gone By

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Before Cyclone Tracy - Copy.jpg189.13 kBJPEGThumbnail
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After Cyclone Tracy.jpg173.31 kBJPEGThumbnail
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Front of our house after CT and now.jpg35.46 kBJPEGThumbnail
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