The Christmas Santa Never Came – Beth

The Christmas Santa Never Came (Santa never came, instead Tracey came)

Christmas eve 1974 had more than the usual anticipation. Cyclone warnings had been
blaring on the hour all day. We could almost say it off by heart, but did not really think
all the precautions would be necessary. After all we came from cyclone territory.
The story really starts back in November when we had to make the choice of
moving house. Having lived for 15 months in a high, large house we could not
imagine how we would fit into a small, low one. We’d been having Youth group
bible study and dinners weekly at our place. How would we be able to continue with
less room? How could I paint? How would we get washing dry in the ‘Wet season”?
The big day came to go into the Housing Commission Office. The house could be
anywhere in Darwin. We may have to change the girl’s school. A verse from the
Bible came to my notice and stayed with me all the way. ‘Whatever happens dear
friends, be glad in the Lord”. Our allocated house was at Jingili, only 2 blocks from
their school and with a clean up, curtains and carpet, we thought it wouldn’t be too
bad after all and if the Lord wanted us to move then we would.

Just 4 weeks later, to the day, that high, large house blew away

As the cyclone came closer, we tried mopping up the water, then rolled up the new
carpets and took down the new curtains. We’d just finished wrapping Christmas
presents for our daughters, and there were their Santa bags sitting amongst the rolled
up curtains. About 1:30am John gave up trying to mop the floors. The water was just
pouring in the locked louvers and under the door. I was starting to worry about Lauren sleeping so
close to the louvers on the front of the house where the worst of the wind was hitting. I
was just considering what to do when John came and put his arm around me and
said,” I think we are going to lose the roof. We’d better wake the girls up.”
We got them up and moved into the bathroom. The power was off and we sat in
the light of the camping gas lamp – quite scared. The wind was getting worse, well
over the 120 kilometres per hour predicted and the roof was ripping off. Glass
louvers were breaking and the rain began to pour in. Each time we heard a crash we
moved further in towards the wall and away from the locked door. We felt the urge to
move elsewhere. Could we reach the car? Should we try to drive to safety? Those
radio warnings had said,” Stay where you are.” “Don’t go outside. The bathroom, or
under a bed is safest.” We didn’t feel safe in the bathroom, so we decided to move
into the girl’s room. John went in first while I held the door closed against the wind.
Then he said ok and we moved into the bedroom. John had pushed the single beds
together and placed a wardrobe on top of them. The kids weren’t too happy about
crawling under the beds. Well neither was I! But ‘any port in a storm’! It was a tight
squeeze. We couldn’t turn over, so laid on our stomaches for the next 4 hours. The
wind got worse and the roof was thundering as sheets of iron ripped off. Glass was
still breaking. Outside the bedroom door our house was being shattered. Was this
the end? We were beginning to think so. We’d been praying for courage and
calmness and now John was praying, “Lord if everything else goes, please leave us
a roof over our heads.” (Next day we saw the only bit of roof left was over that room)
Suddenly the eye of the cyclone! The wind calmed, the rain ceased. We knew this was
only temporary and that Tracy would hit back from the opposite direction any moment.
In the 15 minutes calm, we rearranged the standing wardrobe in such a way to give us
protection from the louvres on the other side. John had a quick look out and we settled
back under the bed. As the furry of Tracy ripped away at our house again, we felt
strangely calm, even sleeping now and then. We’d asked the Lord for calm! He did not
calm the storm outside, but in us. In the blackness of the night we’d put all our trust in
Him, and He was faithful as He’d promised.

At about 5:45 am I asked John if it was safe to get out, we were freezing. We’d
been lying in cold water for so long. John and I crawled out to have a stretch a0d
sat on the soggy pillows. We remarked then about the tremendous calm we had.
He went to the front windows to take his first look outside. “Oh Gosh!” I went to look
myself. Our street looked like a nuclear bomb blast had hit. Our roof, or someone’s,
was wrapped around a power pole. Our fence was flattened. The house nearby
looked terrible. Surely our place wasn’t that bad?

The wind was still blowing gale force but not nearly as bad as during
the night. So we sat down for a little longer. We had been praying for our friends, Col
and Heather, Bonnie and Brian, Bill and Valdene, Diane and Morrie and so on. Now
we were wondering how they were. “Please, Lord let them be in a safe place too.” We
were to find they and their families were all safe.

John went to the other side of the room, our louvres were broken high up. He lifted
me up to see what he had first seen. We were stunned! How could anyone survive
this? The high houses around us were completely destroyed. No sign of life. The
girls stirred and were so cold and shivering, so we let them get out. But we made
them stay behind the cupboard, just in case any more roof came down.
John put on his raincoat and I put on his big football jersey. Miles too big but it was
no time to care about what we looked like. We thanked the Lord we were all safe
and again prayed for our friends. We wondered just how far the damage went,
thinking it couldn’t really be that far. After all we’d seen cyclones before! But we
were soon to find out there had never been on as destructive as this. John said he
would check outside. As it was still quite windy, I waited anxiously while he stepped
over debris and fallen power lines. After several minutes I opened the door and
looked out onto the ruins of our lovely little home. We searched immediately for
thongs because of all the broken glass everywhere. 

Clothes were lying on the floor soggy and wet. Further up the hall were our holiday
photos and albums on the floor. My paintings, which were stored under the cupboards,
were standing in water. Months of work and expensive frames all wet. Then I saw the
portraits I’d painted, “Oh dear.” Onto the lounge! It is hard to describe our feelings. The
table where we’d wrapped presents only hours before was standing under a
continuous flow of water from the ceiling. The roof had gone but the fans were still
hanging at odd angles. There were great holes in the ceiling and the wind was still
blowing and it was still raining. On the floor lay our Christmas tree and cardboard
Santa we’d used for the last 12 Christmases. The painting I was doing was laying in
the murky water. Into the kitchen. There part of the ceiling had collapsed, what a
mess. Our 100 yr old clock had fallen off the cupboard onto the floor. It was John’s
grandfathers, he loved it. So many small things, handed down from family to family,
irreplaceable. But God had spared our lives! Soon John let us go outside. There he
showed me what he had just discovered. The only bit of roof left was over our heads,
wasn’t this what we’d prayed for? God surely answers prayer! Our cars were damaged
but drivable.   

John said he’d see what was happening at the local high school and if
they were making an emergency shelter there. Would I like him to check on Bonnie
and Brian? Of course! So off he went. About “‘2 hour later in came a man in a white
safety helmet. It took me a minute to recognise him as my husband. Well, Bonnie and
Brian were safe, thank you God. 

They needed medical supplies at the high school, so John and I grabbed all we had.
John also had stock of dettol and disinfectant from work, as well as other supplies. He
loaded up and took it over. Still windy at 7:30am, our neighbours houses were
completely destroyed. But people were starting to move around. How on earth had
they survived? It would seem like all shelter had been blown away and yet they were
safe. Later we were to find out about many miracles that Christmas day. “Did Santa
come, Daddy? Please go see.” Bless them, to come through such a terrifying night
and still remember it was Christmas Day. We found the soggy gifts. No Santa, no tree,
no commercialism. Just us and what God had done that night. We packed a few
things and John freed the car from debris and fixed the flat tyre. The we headed over
to the high school. This was our emergency shelter point.

Boxing Day, after all the medical flights had gone.anyone who wanted to fly out to
family was put onto flights to every capital city of Australia. John drove down 10 days
later after rounding up a convoy of evacuee friends.

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