My daughter Ellen and her husband arrived in Kathmandu March 4 on the Turkish Airline flight that skidded off the runway and cracked up on landing. Miraculously, nobody was hurt. They then saw a lot of old friends, and Ellen continued her ongoing research documenting the life histories of some of the old Newar women that had been midwives and sages for their community.
Ellen was on the top floor of an old house in Bhaktipur Saturday when the earthquake struck. [See the related story here.] Pieces of ceiling rained down while the house rolled around like a boat in very rough seas. She managed to get down rickety stairs and outdoors while the building collapsed, but her shoes were buried in the rubble. The old lady she was visiting survived, too; being on the top floor, she ended on top of the rubble, still in bed.
Ellen and Ted, her husband, are staying with Nepalese friends in a relatively safe neighborhood across the Bagmati River from Kathmandu center. She’s still all right as of this writing, but devastated emotionally by the thousands killed so far, the hospitals overflowing, and the destruction of so many of the old temples and monuments she knows and loves. The army is still hard at work rescuing people trapped in the rubble. The whole country is in a state of shock.
This earthquake is a massive tragedy for a unique and wonderful country, but I am confident that the Nepalese people will emerge from the rubble with the same vitality and adaptability they have shown in hauling themselves out of feudalism in only three or four generations.
As for Ellen, it will be a trip to remember.