Two families — one united and surrounded by disaster, the other temporarily separated by 10 time zones and an ocean of worry — have seen what happens when the ground shakes in a poor country.
When the earthquake hit Nepal last week, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, it upended an aid trip and an other-side-of-the world vacation for two families who ventured to the Asian country.
One couple has returned to Kansas City, reunited with their children and freshly appreciative of family, of safety and of life itself.
The other family remained Friday in the quake-damaged nation, awed by the power of earth’s shifting crust and a country’s ability to adapt in crisis.
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A week after the quake, the earth still shook for Carrie Parker and Mark Galloway.
The first night they spent home in Kansas City, Silas, their 4-year-old, came into their bedroom in the dark. Parker started to get up. Galloway jerked awake and grabbed her arm: “What is it?”
The two had traveled to Kathmandu for the 5th Annual International Nepal Tattoo Convention. Galloway is a tattoo artist with a gallery called Windhorse in the Crossroads Arts District. The two arrived in Nepal 10 days before the convention started. They wanted time to see the country, to walk Himalayan trails, visit centuries-old temples and meet the people.
“We wanted an adventure,” Galloway said Friday.
They got one.
As Galloway was setting up his booth and Parker sat reading a book about 10 a.m. a week ago today, the lights went out in the Lal Durbar Convention Center. They were used to that — outages are frequent in Nepal. Then the floor began to rumble. The couple thought people were stomping the floor, wanting the lights back on.
But then the floor buckled, throwing Galloway and Parker off their feet. People screamed. The building shook. Giant crystal chandeliers rattled high above. The crowd stampeded toward the exits. A man in the next booth grabbed his baby and ran.
Galloway, 40, ran with them, wrapping his arms around the man and baby to help against the horde.
“I guess my fatherly instinct kicked in,” Galloway said.
He described a free-for-all. People knocking each other down to get out of the building.
Outside looked like the end of the world. Buildings collapsed, streets crumbled, the earth opened. More than 6,000 people would die.
The quake had caught Parker, 43, without her shoes. As she ran through the rubble and the cries, she thought of the couple’s four children back in Kansas City. She didn’t know if her running took her closer or farther from them. The ground, she said, felt like a boat on choppy water.
She and Galloway finally stopped and turned to each other — Now what do we do, their looks asked.
They had no cellphones or passports on them. They had no idea if their hotel still stood. They didn’t know if the quake was over.
The two went back into the convention center for their cellphones and Parker’s shoes. She fell trying to reach where their booth had stood.
Then the couple started through the city on foot, passing some of the places they had visited earlier in the week.
“We had been right there,” Galloway said. “Just days before, we’d walked in sunshine to a temple hundreds of years old. It was beautiful and people were so nice.
“Then we went back and it was all gone and the people were sobbing.”
Aftershocks rumbled the next few days. Talk swirled that another big wave was coming. The Kansas City couple grew quake-savvy — always scouting for exits before entering any building.
“Pretty much all of the city was sleeping in the streets,” said Galloway, who added that he never slept, not really.
And there’s this for the exploitation file: Hotels required that people buy a room in order to sleep on their lawns.
At some point, Parker and Galloway managed to post this on Facebook for folks back home: “We’re OK.”
Their flight home was delayed more than a day as emergency aid poured into the city. They were told at the airport that they must stay in the building or their seats would be given to someone else. They finally flew out late Tuesday.
“When the wheels left the ground, there were whoops and cheers,” Galloway said.
“And some crying,” Parker added.
That’s what she did when they arrived back at KCI and her children ran into her arms.
Parker, who works in marketing at a hospital and runs Oracle, a curiosities boutique in the Crossroads, is a psychologist who has treated service members suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I always told them it was all about the process of working through that,” she said. “Now I’m on the other side. We both are and this will be with us a long time.”
They even had guilt about getting on that plane home.
“You feel horrible about leaving and we would have stayed and helped if not for our kids,” Galloway said. “But you want to get back to them.”
They kept their children, ages 4 to 16, home that first day back. It was a day of hugs and goofing around.
“A lot of flowers had bloomed while we were gone,” Parker said. “We walked around the yard, enjoying the day … thankful to have a house.”
Drew and Lauren Timberlake had been in Nepal for about a month with their three children — Oliver, 11, Ezra, 8, and Lois, 3 — when the home where they were staying rocked from the historic temblor.
“It was big enough here to knock us off our feet,” Drew Timberlake, chief information officer for A.B. May, wrote in a blog post not long after the quake.
The Kansas City, Kan., family emerged from the devastation without injuries, but they still found themselves in a devastated country, navigating a foreign, and uncertain, terrain. They have been in Nepal visiting friends who lead an organization that helps people, especially children, with disabilities, heart conditions and accident injuries.
Lauren and the children expect to leave in a matter of days, a family member said, and Drew plans to remain through the end of May.
The family is staying in Lalitpur, near Kathmandu, roughly 50 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.
Near Kathmandu, families have been displaced after homes and buildings crumbled. Needs as basic as food and fresh water prove difficult to come by. And while the Timberlakes took shelter on the floor of a nearby church in the days after the quake, their sleep gets regularly interrupted by aftershocks.
The surrounding rural areas, meanwhile, seem to have been hit particularly hard. Lauren Timberlake works for a Kansas City, Kan., organization that aids Latinos and Bhutanese-Nepali refugees. She said many houses in nearby villages were built with mud and reportedly nearly 90 percent might have collapsed.
“There isn’t enough water at … for children to bathe frequently or wash clothes, and there still isn’t electricity — only a generator,” Lauren Timberlake said in a text message to The Star on Friday.
Progress has come slowly.
It hasn’t helped that the Timberlakes have been dealing with illness. Four out of the five family members have battled stomach issues. A lack of clean water has made hygiene difficult. But small signs of promise have appeared.
Some families have been able to gingerly move back into their homes. Or with relatives. Others have pitched in on recovery. In the neighborhood where the Timberlakes are staying, for instance, nearly 75 people helped clear the remains of an 8-foot brick wall that had collapsed and blocked a road.
“The urban areas have water coming in, and shops are opening,” Lauren Timberlake said by text. “Many people are sleeping in their homes again, or have moved in with friends and family. People are working together to remove some of the rubble. Those still living in tents have gotten nicer tarps.”
Meantime, Drew Timberlake spent a day working with desperate local residents to find drinking water. He found a shop selling bottles and bought as many as he could carry. Still, he searched for other too-scarce supplies, always calculating how much he could cache in his backpack and carry back to his family.
All the while, new anxieties grew. Might the situation grow even uglier? Would looters, he wondered on the blog, pop up soon?
Instead, even in the wake of such a dire natural disaster, order has remained.
He has chided himself for his initial reaction to collect as many resources as possible to keep his family healthy.
“In a crisis, success is the ability to out-think and out-maneuver all those around me and secure as many resources as possible for me and my family,” he wrote. “That’s American wisdom … at least my understanding of it.
“Here in Nepal, my survival at the expense of others (no one else is getting granola bars around here for awhile!) is selfish, strange, and frankly irrational.”