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AgLife: A stark reminder

Last week’s earthquake has jolted me into a more reflective time. 

I’ll admit, I feared for my life as my house heaved and groaned and I tried desperately to work out what was happening. I live in Benalla, just 60 kilometres from the epicentre near Mansfield, so the quake was strong and lasted quite a while. 

My home is just a hundred metres or so from the Melbourne-Sydney rail line and my first thought was it must be one of those freight trains with hundreds of carriages and shipping containers being derailed and thrown like deadly Lego pieces towards my house.

The bookcase behind me, which is in two parts to make it easier to move, was shaking violently and threatening to topple on top of me. 

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I decided to make a bolt to the back garden because the large pane windows in the living area shook like a flag in gale force winds, vibrating angrily, surely about to shatter into tiny pieces.

I won’t repeat what I said as I stood with my dogs in the centre of the lawn, but the neighbours echoed my sentiments across the fence and we agreed it was an earthquake. The dogs didn’t give a fig! 

The only damage was dust and plaster falling off ceilings and a pot plant overturned.

Within seconds the phone began to ring with family members checking on each other. 

My daughter in London had even heard and was desperately trying to call her brother in Melbourne after pictures of a collapsed building in Prahran were sent to her by a friend.

We quickly started making the predictable corny jokes about the earth moving to appease how foolish we felt for fearing for our lives. But it was a stark reminder of powers greater than ours will inevitably take us from this life and that it could be so much sooner than we think. 

It was the first time for my kids to be faced with the force of nature and is only making our isolation from each other all the harder to bear.

It has also caused me to pause and contemplate some of the inexplicably cruel things I have witnessed and reported. The first that I rarely talk about is the Martin Bryant Port Arthur massacres. I had small children at the time and declined a request to go to Tasmania to report on it for ABC TV.

Instead, I was the main ‘man’ for transcribing the interviews as they came in. At least I got to go home to my family like so many others would never be able to do.

The other was Black Saturday. This time I was back in my first love, radio, and we hit the road to broadcast from various fire-refuge centres.

I’ll never forget the smell and the ash falling like snow as people posted to the notice board pictures of their missing loved ones.

After more than 35 years as a journalist, I like to think of myself as being pretty hardened to the news. 

Then something else comes along to remind me of how fragile we all really are.

The entire September 29, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire September 29, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!