Last night I went to the launch of a new book, made and collated in our own backyard (well, in Townsville, but I'm claiming it for us too) titled The True Spirit of Cyclone Yasi. This book is a collection of stories from various contributors all the way up and down the Queensland Coast.
The launch was great. The SES the recipients of door takings on the night and a huge presence of political beings indicating the respect that a project like this has in our region (notwithstanding the fact that it is election time). Bernadette Lawson, who was behind this book along with her husband Craig, made the trip north from Townsville and along with Lisa Robbie and Mayor Val Schier officially launched the book.
Most of those present had a personal experience with the storm last year and many had in some way helped to get residents through the day of destruction and the weeks which followed. From those informing and communicating via radio and print and photographic media, to the heroic acts of our SES and those who helped in the Community Relief Centres and Disaster Co-ordination Centres across the affected area.
The multitude of small acts which changed lives and the monster effort put in by some which changed the future for entire communities cannot be under-estimated. While the launch was indeed a fantastic event and a great opportunity to pay tribute to a few, it was the stories within the book that I was most anxious to take a look at.
Please note: this is NOT a book that you can 'take a look at'. It's a book you need to sit down with and read in it's entirety. It is a book that allows you to take a breather every now and then to regroup and clear your head. This is a book which you will visit again and again as the years unfold and Yasi becomes a memory from the distant past.
I read it, every single word on every single page. These words are not perfect. These words are not flowery. These words are not filled with the prose of perfect literature. That's why it's so easy to read and so very evocative. These are the words of those who lived through a terrifying experience. Some from afar with family caught up in the middle. Some from nearby as they waited to see where they would be deployed when the clean-up efforts began. Some from the very centre of the cyclone, who ran from their homes during the eye and somehow, extraordinarily, survived.
Some of these stories latch on to your imagination and take you on an horrific journey. The story from Tracey Dunlop, of her night spent bunkered down with her mum and Grandparents and at one point ending up in her car while riding out the gusts and gales. Her story is a heartbreaking one of loss, yet at the end she tells of the happiness her Grandmother feels now, making a new home for herself in her re-built house on the beach.
The stories by the Porter family of Tully are also inspiring, heartbreaking and somehow empowering. The courage shown in the telling of the story there for the reader to see.
The many stories by those who helped re-build the small communities affected so badly by the wind, the rain and the storm surges remind me again of the generosity of so many in the weeks following Yasi. The images provoked by the explanation of what a 'green ant dance' is as told by Bree from the SES volunteers. In my minds eye, I saw her charging in to chainsaw part of a tree for a few seconds, rushing away to do the jig which would rid her of the pesky, biting ants, then rushing back in to take another swipe at the tree.
Lisa'a story at the end of the book, of the recovery efforts and her large part in the coordination of that made me remember the times we at work baked for hours and two wonderful ladies (Mel and Corine) came by to pick up our cakes and deliver them to the hardest hit areas in and around Tully. Not exactly a huge effort, but reading Lisa'a story made me very glad we had done it.
This book is perfect. It is exactly how it should have been and exactly what we needed. A book of incredible stories from ordinary people who turned out to be far from ordinary when the need to act, be strong or to just survive was there.
The other thing this book does is remind you of your own Yasi story. We all have one. It's one of those 'Where were you when....' scenarios. It should never be forgotten and we must now remember that so many people were affected, so many still need our help and so many are still feeling the emotional toll of this event.
The book is $30 and worth every penny. 10% of all proceeds will go directly back into the areas worst hit, from Innisfail to Townsville. The True Spirit of Yasi is available from Sheds One 4041 3303, Compound 4051 3616 or the Westpac on Lake st are also selling them. Or you can call Lisa directly on 0402 210 330. Buy it. You will be glad you did.
After reminiscing all day after reading this wonderful collection of stories, I have chosen to re-post my poem that I wrote on my way home, a few short days after Yasi had been to Far North Queensland.
The Dall'Osto family went on a trip,
And they couldn't have been more ill-equipped,
In terms of clothing, food and with very little wealth.
They packed a few belongings,
But still had to go shopping,
For the mother forgot to pack clothes for herself.
Rocky saved our sanity,
Thank God they don't insist on vanity,
The van park full of those who got away.
They came from far and wide,
And drove all night to get inside,
Some queued up but there was no room left to stay.
Cyclone Yasi was a big one,
And we knew it would be no fun,
To hang around and listen to it's roar.
So we all holed up together,
And stayed tuned to the weather,
Some were praying as she came closer to the shore.
We might have been well out of reach,
But even in Rocky she let out a screech,
And we held our breath as Yasi let out hers.
She crossed the coast with much ado,
Flung tin and banana's as she went through,
Her name became the locals favourite curse.
We waited and we watched ,
As she made her way across,
Hoping houses were all she would destroy.
After several very long hours,
We learnt what happened to ours,
And the cat we left behind - that poor boy.
Turns out we were one of those she missed,
And most of Cairns was on that list,
But others didn't fare so well we found.
All the way from Ayr,
There were signs that she'd been there,
And debris was scattered all over the ground.
Entire towns were flattened,
Some were bruised and some were battered,
But all our prayers were answered by that storm.
For while she puffed with all her might,
And she stayed for half the night,
Only one young soul wouldn't live to see the dawn.
The pictures that came through,
When the day was shiny new,
Broke our hearts with the devastation that was shown.
All those places we know well,
Had gone through some kind of hell,
This was the biggest ever cyclone that they'd known.
Now we are here just one week later,
Seeing the mess left by Mother Nature,
The people standing strong and side by side.
As they all join in together,
And things start to look better,
The people here won't run, nor will they hide.
In this place where all their homes are,
Yasi has left some awful scars,
And sometimes the job ahead must seem too tough.
The residents are covered in mud and grit,
And they haven't lost heart, or hope, or wit,
But they'll need help from us all cos things are rough.
We need to give all that we can,
Be it cash or food or hands,
It's a monumental task from what I saw.
Buy bananas, buy good steak,
Right from the farmer's gate,
Together, let's make things even better than before!!