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Waiting

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1. WAITING - Cyclone Tracy

by Maxine Dhalstrom © All rights reserved
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Editors note - Cyclone Tracy devastated the city of Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1974. Tracy was responsible for the death of 65 people (including 16 lost at sea), with many more injured. There was close to a billion dollars damage (1974 $'s), some 80 percent of the houses, and 70 percent of all buildings in Darwin were destroyed. 41,000 people were left homeless (87 percent of the population) which resulted in some 30,000 people being relocated to other parts of Australia in the greatest evacuation in our modern history. Many people did not return to Darwin after Tracy.

Maxine wrote this poem not long after she and her family were exposed to the fury of Cyclone Tracy.

Waiting

The rain came, beating on roof and walls,
I'd never heard, such torrential falls.
The wind it howled, the wind it roared,
And out in the darkness debris soared.
It hurtled up into the air,
And crashed back down without a care

Up on stilts our house was built,
The force of the wind would make it tilt.
And the crashing and banging of things outside,
Was making my stomach, in knots get tied.
Three little children we had to protect,
We had no idea what to expect.

This was a cyclone coming to play,
And I didn't like what it was beginning to say.
Please Lord get on, with what it must do,
But hurry and get its damage all through.
And I did not think for even one minute,
My house would break up with everyone in it.

Sitting rigid in the doorway in my chair,
This demon Tracy was so unfair.
Our baby tucked firmly in her cot,
My husband laying over the other lot,
Who thought it strange he lay like so,
What was going on they didn't know.

Gone was some roof and now it was leaking.
Rattles and shakes, and floorboards creaking
Would it be able to hold out to the last?
Or crash to pieces with one big blast.
There we stayed and tried to pray
That we could make it to Christmas Day.

Then the fury began to die,
Relief was expressed with a big sigh.
And for a short while we thought it was done,
Then realised the second half hadn't begun.
We were in the eye of the storm,
Of it the radio did continually warn.

And while all was quiet and so still,
We peered out over the window sill.
To see what had been happening out there,
And what we saw, gave us such a scare.
The torchlight shone left and right,
Showed what she'd done with her might.

The swimming pool down below,
Wherever did all its water go?
The roller door of the factory there,
Was all blown out and open to air.
And from within, the stocks had scattered,
Not much left in there that really mattered.

Then with the louvres shut again,
The wind was back with all the rain.
And stronger, stronger it did blow,
With all the force that Tracy could show.
And we all huddled in the farthest room,
Hoping and praying, we weren't headed for doom.

On and on she displayed her talents,
Children cuddling, with faith in the parents
Who themselves, were terrified,
Listening to the house as it heaved and sighed,
Dipping and swaying as it was battered,
Would they have known the sound that mattered?

Waiting, for the sound that would send
Them all outside as the house was rend
In bits and pieces from its moorings,
By the ferocity of Tracy's clawings,
There we stayed while hearts beat fast,
Surely Tracy was nearly past.

And when at last the wind abated,
Bringing the moment they'd awaited
All the family was safe and sound.
And now it was time to look around,
Ruin as far as the eye could see
Where Tracy had worked her tapestry.

 


Links:

Homes in Darwin damaged by Cyclone Tracy - photo from Film Australia via abc.net.au - photographer unknown

National Archive Australia - Fact Sheet 176, Cyclone Tracy  - Includes photos, audio and correspondence links

Northern Territory Library - Cyclone Tracy Collection - Includes photos and audio visuals

Cyclone Tracy Newsreel - You Tube - Original newsreel of the aftermath

The Sound of a Cyclone - Audio recording by priest Ted Collins, who was sheltering in a room at St John's College after attending church for midnight mass

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 October 2013 10:32

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