On Sunday August 5th 2018 at 7:46PM Lombok Island in Indonesia experienced a deadly 7.0 magnitude earthquake. At the time of the earthquake we were staying in Gangga Village, only about 8 miles from the epicenter. The entirety of Gangga Village was severely affected. Over 90% of the homes, mosques, businesses, schools, etc. were completely flattened within seconds. We were unbelievably lucky to escape the building alive, but most people of the village were not as lucky as we were. We owe our lives to Madi from Gangga Village and wish to share this story so his village can receive medical supplies and materials to help their people and rebuild their lives. The need is very real. The death toll on Lombok Island is rising daily and has already reached over 350 fatalities with over 1,000 severely injured and leaving over 165,000 people homeless. They are in severe shortage of survival supplies such as food, clothes, and medicine. Many of the children and elderly are coming down with illness after the quakes as they are sleeping outside with minimal shelter, food, and clothes. If you are unable to make a contribution, simply sharing this story with hopes of it reaching someone who can make such a difference in the lives of these amazing people. All donations will be going directly to the village and surround area affected by the earthquake. The money will be used to help rebuild the lives of those affected and send hope for a better future for this beautiful people. The people of Gangga Village saved our lives, please help us to rebuild and save their lives.
The island of Lombok, Indonesia had previously experienced a 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the volcano Mount Rinjani the week before we arrived and we had no idea what we were about to experience later that week. This experience will deeply impact our lives forever.
We were on cloud nine exploring all of the beauty Lombok had to offer; the beaches, the small villages, the nature, the people, their culture, religion, traditions... It was all so beautiful! The famous Mount Rinjani volcano trek we had planned to do was closed so we settled on finding the local waterfalls near the mountain. On August 5th we decided to pack an overnight bag with the necessities, rented a motorbike, and started the journey to the waterfalls near Mount Rinjani. The coastal road up to the volcano was the epitome of a tropical dream! We were so happy and carefree in these moments. Passing through the villages, the children would sneak smiles at us and giggle until they got the courage to run up to us and scream “play! play!” A local woman named Rinny flagged us down and invited us to her home on the beach, which consisted of a small bamboo shack without walls and a single table for a fresh coconut they had just cut down from the palm trees. We learned of her family’s story and her experience growing up on the island. She told us that when she saw us in the village she needed to invite us to her home so we could meet her grand daughter, Kimora, since it is her dream to live in America. As we continued the trip to the waterfall, we would pass car truck beds full of teenage girls going to school who would flash us the “I Love You” hand-sign. We discovered a placed called Tiu Pituq where the locals had built life sized and interactive structures in the middle of the jungle for people to take pictures and enjoy the incredible scenery atop the mountain. It was made of purely recycled materials that was repurposed and colorfully designed. They only asked that you respect the land and contribute whatever donation you could. They even helped Brontee scour the entire mountain trail looking for her bag that she left behind. It was these moments of kindness from the local people and the unimaginable beauty of the island that lead us to coin the nickname “Love Island” for Lombok.
Upon our arrival to Gangga Waterfall, we met a man named Madi and he told us the story of his land and how his father discovered the waterfall and decided to build paths and trails so people could come enjoy the hidden beauty. We had no idea what impact this man would have on our lives and our hearts just 8 hours later. He offered us a tour of the waterfalls and his village as we snacked on clumps of palm sugar and cocoa that he grew from his land. He beamed as he spoke about his newly finished bungalow that he built with his own hands. We hadn't yet planned for anywhere to stay and this place was perfect! It was a small one bedroom with a connecting bathroom and an enclosed balcony.. it even came with a new bumping stereo system! The view was overlooking the ocean, waterfalls, and all the village’s agriculture. It was perfect, we told Madi. We decided to return to the bungalow later in the evening, because we wanted to see the impressive waterfalls at the base of Mount Rinjani in the far north! So we said a see you later to Madi, not knowing that this new friendship would play such an important role and be the reason we are both alive today. We hopped back on the bike and drove the hour drive to Sendang Gile waterfall. The atmosphere and energy quickly changed as we entered this city, which was the epicenter of the first earthquake. Most people were living in tents outside of public buildings and most buildings were cracked or completely crumbled. The people were distraught and there were constant sounds or sirens and announcements for the survivors. On the hike there were remnants of rubble everywhere. Large trees were dislodged and shaken off of the mountain, massive boulders covering the bits of trail that was left, and green scenery on the cliff face was completely covered in dirt. The once bustling town that was basecamp for the famous hike was now a ghost town where all of the businesses were closed and boarded up. After the hike we donated some money to the village people and began our descent to Madi’s village. After getting lost in the dark for a while, we finally arrived at 6:55pm. Madi and his friend were sitting on the balcony of the bungalow awaiting our arrival. Madi’s 4 1/2 year old son came running through the darkness out of nowhere in his Superman pajamas with a “welcome” piece of white bread and chocolate to share. We sat and talked for a few while taking turns to rise off in the shower. His wife made us a delicious traditional meal called nasi goreng (fried rice) and brought it to our balcony. We laughed and joked about our day, the rumors we heard about the local rice wine, and admired the stars that seemed like they were touching the palm trees up on the mountain cliff. Madi told us we were only the second guests to ever stay in the bungalow! We felt so special to be staying there! Madi played us one of his favorite songs on his sound system, “White Flag” by Dido. Just then, the unthinkable happened. The earth grumbled and EVERYTHING began to shake so violently and so fast. Madi and his friend fled immediately... running for their lives, motioning us to do the same. We both ran and threw ourselves off of the porch and landed on a mound of dirt that was the makeshift mud staircase into the fields. As our bodies hit the ground, the bungalow came crashing down, cutting the only light for miles. Digging our hands into the mound and trying to find anything to hold onto as the earth shook and threw us like rag dolls, we cried out in the darkness in order to find each other. We tried to move but the shaking immediately pulled us back down to the earth. The ground furiously shook for what seemed like an eternity. We tried to hang on and simultaneously cover our heads hearing the cement blocks fly and land all around us but not being able to get up from the ledge of the dirt mound. When the shaking briefly stopped we grasped for each other in the pitch darkness and looked behind us to find the bungalow completely flattened and thrown forward and landing only inches away from our feet. We were seconds away from death. Both of us were trembling and in a state of shock and panic. As the earth quieted, it was replaced by the horrific sound of wailing and screams from the village people. Wearing no shoes and only our small pajamas, we crawled and stumbled trying to find our way through the clearing. We looked down at our bleeding legs and headed towards the screams to begin to help the village people, this would only be the beginning. The quake had decimated the village but it was far from being over.
As we gathered and sat in the waterfall’s parking area, the men and young boys began to speed away on their motorbikes to retrieve as many people as they could from the rubble. Villagers began arriving to Madi’s parking area as we huddled together and exchanged “ you okay?” In broken English. In a small mountain village in the middle of nowhere in Indonesia, the only light came from the stars and even then, blackness was overwhelming. As the wind began to pick up, there would be a quick silence before the ground began to quake again. It felt as if the soil beneath you would break apart and you could see it shift and move and it shook everything and everyone back and forth. It was decided we needed to congregate in a safer area, so we made our way to the rice fields. On the path to the rice fields we passed families digging out bloody relatives and cutting down bamboo and any type of salvaged fabric to create a human sling to transport the injured into the clearing. More and more people old and young began arriving to the area. People were bleeding out and with no medical supplies the village people used their land’s resources. They used the clove leave’s oils for antiseptic and what little water they had to clean the dirt out of open wounds. They constructed IV bags held up by sticks for the critically injured. The resourcefulness and unity was overwhelming.
Everyone passed the night in the freezing cold, laying on top of one another in the rocks and dirt. Some were able to sleep but most remained awake with intense aftershocks happening every 10-15 minutes. The village chief would lead the people in prayer during the tremors and the collective prayer chants resonated and created soothing atmosphere and a sense of peace in a time of trauma. As we sat around a small fire made by burning a stump of a palm tree and using cardboard boxes as kindling, we learned of infants who were crushed by houses and of their friends and family members who did not survive through the night. As the only foreigners there, we experienced a huge language and communication barrier, but acts of kindness like sharing a sip of water a bite of cracker, or an understanding smile was how they were able to communicate with us. We were overwhelmed by the acceptance and kindness these people showed us in this incredibly dark time. We joined together and huddled around the wounded to keep them warm with body heat. Some medical supplies were retrieved from the rubble and passed around to who needed them. There was over one hundred villagers bunched together in the fields: families with their infants, elderly crouched over, many people covered in blood surrounded by their loved ones, and some still searching through the night for their loved ones lost in the disaster. The night lasted forever. There was no way of any outside help to reach us until the first sign of light. People retrieved as many blankets, supplies, food, and water as they could find in the darkness and shared with everyone in need. They chanted and prayed all night long as the waves of earthquakes continued. First, there would be a strong wind, the earth would grumble, and then the severe aftershocks would hit, leaving people trembling in each other's arms. We were all in this together.
As the night passed and daylight broke, we caught the first glimpse of the immensity of the damage and destruction to the village. People lost everything. Their whole lives turned upside down and their livelihoods and businesses destroyed. And even worse, the loved ones they have lost... But this is only the beginning for these people. All of the buildings are made from cement bricks and getting anything from the rubble needed great strength. The spirit of these courageous people is what stuck with us the most. They showed bravery and strength in the darkest of times. Still smiling and cheering each other up to show that everything will be ok.. they are the strongest people we have ever met. Still smiling through all of the pain and suffering they were enduring. The strength, love, and community we experienced and witnessed in a time of disaster will be something we will never forget.
Our journey back to the main city showed us that the remainder of the island’s towns weren’t any better. There were roads that were completely split open, massive boulders and trees sprawled out and crushing whatever lay in their path, leaving remnants of motorbikes and lone shoes. It was a truly horrific scene of dead bodies out in the open and masses of homeless and helpless people huddled in "safe zones", with some even running through the rubble barefoot and crying. The deaths will continue to rise but the people's spirits will keep the hope alive.
We believe we were meant to be there on this horrific night with the people of Gangga village, to tell their story of the deadly earthquake that has devastated the lives of these undeserving people. Everything happens for a reason. We met Madi that day to help him and all the people in his village. We want to shed light to what is happening in Lombok. The death rate from August 5th’s earthquake is already past 350 fatalities with many more severely injured, and it's not going to stop there. The earthquakes will continue to strike until the volcano erupts. These people's homes, schools, businesses, family members, loved ones.. all taken from them. They have no food shelter clothes. They need our help. Us being the only foreigners staying there and experiencing this with them was meant to happen. It was fate. They saved our lives... please help us save their humanity and restore their community.
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