Spirit of a Nation

I'm ashamed to admit that, when news of the devastating earthquake in Nepal broke, I didn't take a great deal of notice. Not that I didn't care, but I don't watch TV nor do I buy newspapers. Anything that goes on in the world often passes me by. And only when I read about it on Facebook, Twitter or my weather forum; or a friend says 'Isn't it awful about…….' do I take any notice and make it my business to read the Headlines.

So I read all about the devastation in that most beautiful of countries. And I was shocked and saddened by what I saw. The poor people in a state of shock wondering what the hell had happened, while sitting amongst the ruins of what had once been their home. Ancient temples and monuments in ruins, and rescuers retrieving bodies from the rubble. Children, forlorn and weeping for their lost families while yet more aftershocks rocked the land and terrified them afresh. Poor, poor souls, I thought, and, exhorted to give generously, I did. And got on with my life.

Then today, I watched a Panorama documentary on BBC I player about the Nepal disaster and one man's lucky escape from Mt Everest.

Tom Martienssen, a BBC reporter was filming a party of British Army Ghurkas who were attempting the summit of Everest to mark two hundred years of service in the British Army. One of the men had just completed four tours of Afghanistan, but he considered climbing Everest much more daunting.

With them was a group of Sherpas, brave men who guided climbers up the mountain with little regard for their own safety, as long as the climbers were looked after. As Martienssen discovered later, the Sherpas had left homes and families to do this most dangerous and skilled of jobs.

Two of the Sherpas, Kumar and Tensing were filmed at Base Camp and smiling into the camera. Martienssen's voice over is chilling as he says that 'Within hours, they would be dead'. Poor souls.

As the party, with Martienssen, strike out for Camp One, a very dangerous climb over deep crevasses and ice, those left behind at Base Camp, including the Sherpas, have no idea that within hours, the area would be hit by a horrendous earthquake and the men at Camp One would be stranded.

The earthquake, which is felt on the mountain, is accompanied by terrifying avalanches which completely engulf Base Camp, killing eighteen, including Kumar and Tensing, and seriously injuring many more. And, when Tom and the others are rescued and brought down the mountain, they are confronted by rows of orange canvas tents covering the bodies of their friends and colleagues. A sight which, Tom says, haunts him for a long time afterwards.

Later, and on a mercy dash with army personel to deliver food and other essentials to out-lying villages, Martienssen is overwhelmed when, amidst such devastation and poverty, the locals offer to share their food with him. Others are busy re building roads so aid can get through to those in need. It looks like a skilled job, much like dry-stone walling in Yorkshire. Temporary school buildings are being put up for the local children and it's a race against time as the Monsoon season is imminent. But local Ghurkas have rolled up their sleeves and are working hard to have the building completed in time.

Most poignant of all is when Tom visits the widows and families of Kumar and Tensing. The devastated women weep as they talk about their lost loved ones, and wide eyed children look with delight at their photos on Tom's mobile phone. And even then, the families offer to share their food with the TV crew and also a place to sleep.

A nation of such spirited, generous and hard working people deserve to have their country whole again. But can it ever be the same? The temples, homes and monuments as they knew them have gone forever. There are people who have lost not just one but many members of their family. Children left without their parents and homeless.

My thoughts are with the people of Nepal. And if, by writing this, it brings their plight to others attention, then I feel I have done something for them.

To read more of Tom Mortienssen's story visit This Site



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