A regularly one hour flight took us eight hours. The Nepali man sitting behind me on the plane had been sobbing for the last hour. He had just found out about the death of a loved one. I put my hand on his shoulder, as if it would help at all, and whispered: "I'm sorry."
We finally got off the plane around 0300 and walked down the tarmac passing groups of people evacuating the country in large military cargo planes. The humble Khatmandu airport was filled with people sleeping on any patch of comfort they could find, waiting for their evacuation flight. We grabbed our checked bags full of medical supplies and headed outside, not quite sure how we were going to get to our guesthouse. Miraculously, a guy with a van drove up and we hailed him down. He overcharged us for the ride, but considering the circumstances we didn't bat an eye. We passed families walking down the dark streets with suitcases dragging behind them. A few tents had sprung up in the open areas of the city, but mostly people were sleeping outside. Only a few lights from generators were actually working. We reached the guesthouse and met the owner outside. The lobby was completely full of people sleeping on the floors. We tiptoed through and headed to our rooms on the third floor. I felt so guilty taking up a whole room with people sleeping on the ground in the lobby. In reality, they were in a much safer area and closer to the exit, but I still felt bad.
To make room for medical supplies and camera gear, I had only brought one change of clothes. Not even PJs. So, to keep everything as fresh as possible, I stripped down to my underwear and crawled into bed. Not even a moment after turning off the light, I felt my first aftershock. It was enough to get the dogs barking. My bed shook and the sound of the building creaking made me worry. When it ended, I could hear moaning in the distance. The people were in pure fear. They had seen and felt the destruction, and with so many aftershocks, it felt to them as if the terror would never end. I realized this would be the first of many tremors, and by the time I left I had almost gotten used to them happening every night. After everything settled, I turned the light back on, put on my jeans and t-shirt and got back into bed to sleep a couple of hours.
Nepal is still in need of help. Please go to NepalRises.com to see what you can do to help, and watch our 20 minute documentary on the quake here: https://vimeo.com/131714723.
Published: April 25, 2016