He is a husband. He is a father. He is a son. He is a brother. He is a neighbor. He is a best friend. He is Veta Mandra, an ordinary guy who 4 years ago, right at the very same day as today, had to deal with an extraordinary event in Jogja, Indonesia.
May 27, 2006. 6:10 am.
It was one lovely bright morning. Veta Mandra just woke up, went straight to his TV and turned it on. His wife, Dian, was in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for the whole family. Yes, that’s how daily life starts for an ordinary family. But what happened next… Happened in a blink of an eye. And it was devastating.
Veta Mandra felt the first tremble. EARTHQUAKE!
As any other ordinary guy would have done, Veta Mandra tried to bring his kids outside. He even remembered to hold his PC monitor so it wouldn’t fall off the desk.
Opening a door during earthquake wasn’t easy. Veta Mandra spent some minutes on trying to push the key into the lock alone. But he and his family finally got out of the house. And he looked around. The neighborhood was…
… Wait a minute. It wasn’t bad. No heavy damage spotted. The tremble seemed to be slowing down, too. At that point Veta Mandra just realized that he got out of the house wearing no clothes, only underwear.
Many people in Jogja thought the quake was caused by Merapi. It was the time when the mountain was active.
Veta Mandra, living in Sanden, 4 KM north the southern beach of Java Island, tried to call his parents in Pleret. Failed. He tried to send them text message. Pending.
Still thought that the quake wasn’t big, Veta Mandra took a shower. After all, that morning he should’ve watched TransAmerica with his buddy.
About 8 o’clock every plan made by every ordinary guy in Jogja changed. Veta Mandra received a text message, “Tsunami in Pleret, Dude?” That was how it got into him. That the quake was more than he thought. Much more…
Veta Mandra brought his whole family to Pleret. Should tsunami had really hit Jogja, he’d have been killed first.
And the heart-breaking journey to Pleret began…
Going north, Veta Mandra saw collapsed houses and buildings. So many people injured, their heads were wrapped with white bandage turning red. Blood red.
The sight was getting worse and worse as Veta Mandra kept going north. His mind couldn’t stop visualizing worst scenarios for what might have happened to his parents in Pleret.
In Bantul, having a friend hosted for his wife and kids, Veta Mandra bought fuel for his motorcycle. It wasn’t easy. Traffic was chaotic due to tsunami rumor, and he had to bear with the longest queue in his whole life in the fuel station. Thank God he finally got some.
He then took his family for breakfast. No diner was open. Everyone in town seemed to look for his own salvation. On empty stomach.
Veta Mandra stopped by PKU Muhammadiyah Bantul. He could see that with so many victims laying around and crying to death, while electricity was cut out, it was the busiest, chaotic moment in the hospital. He managed to see a reporter, asking him, “Has the quake badly damaged?” The reporter replied, “Yes, especially in Piyungan and Pleret.” *JEDHANGGG*
Veta Mandra somehow got some food to feed his family. Not long after, at 2 pm, troops were bursting into town. They came with aid. And a bit hope.
Veta Mandra continued the journey to his parents’ home. While he was riding through Jetis, he saw more and more collapsed houses. His mind was clouded with fear, but he had to go on…
In (finally) Pleret Veta Mandra saw how the earth could bring death in the most devastating way. The ruins of collapsed houses brought tears to his eyes. But, despite the white flag (which is usually found outside an Indonesian house when one of its resident dies) he spotted…
… Veta Mandra’s parents turned out to be okay. All were alive but one: his grandfather. His grandmother asked the neighbors to get her husband out of the ruins, but they were too busy saving their own families. The old champ died of losing too much blood.
Despite the saddest situation, Veta Mandra felt a bit relieved, knowing that at that moment he could be with his family altogether.
With several nearby neighbors, Veta Mandra built an emergency tent in the middle of the farm. They turned off the radio, awoke all nite, to get some latest news. There was a news that the next quake was coming at 11 pm or 1 am. But the mother nature put her rage at ease. No another big quake, just a heavy rain. The emergency tent was drowned, so Veta Mandra had to take his kids into a neighbor’s car. He caught a cold, but other than that, they were fine.
After the quake had hit, the situation was still dangerous for the next couple of days. Some people sold instant noodles for Rp 50.000,- (USD 5.00) a pack. Some other, only God knew who they were, raided the villages. In such hard times no one could think more civilized than human basic instinct: to get food and to survive.
Today marks the fourth year after the 6.5 SR earthquake in Jogja, Indonesia. More than 5,000 people died, almost all houses and buildings in southern Jogja turned into ruins. I was in Surabaya back then, and felt a slight tremble at that very moment. But today my heart trembles faster knowing this true story of my friend, Veta Mandra. More devastating stories must be out there, maybe of your friends.
RIP, Jogja earthquake victims. And may the force be with those left behind.