Valda Lefebvre – Our Wedding Anniversary

My husband Lou and I had only arrived in Darwin 6 months before Cyclone Tracy with our three little sons, Justin, four years old, and twins Shannon and Paul, three years old. We had settled happily in our Thornton Crescent, Moil home, a very sturdy home built by Watkins Builders for the area manager, which was Lou.

December 24th was our 9th wedding anniversary, and despite cyclone warnings, I was determined to celebrate at the Travelodge Restaurant. During the evening, the winds began in earnest, and Lou suggested we leave early. Driving back along Bagot Road, our car was being buffeted badly, and once home, our babysitter was very anxious. Lou drove her across the road to her home and helped her up the stairs. Meanwhile, I was taking paintings off the wall and storing Christmas presents, including bikes, in what I thought was a safe place.

Lou insisted we take all three boys to our bedroom, and just as well, as a huge rafter smashed through Shannon’s room. My little Miniature Dachshund, Fiona, kept jumping on and off the bed in our flooded bedroom. So began our night of terror, but fortunately, only the front of our home was destroyed by flying debris, and we were safe at the back of our brick home with huge beams throughout.

The next morning, Lou rounded up his staff, and we moved to a new building that Watkins was building for Aboriginal Mothers and Babies. This was where I had my most stressful experience when the Federal Policeman threatened to shoot my little dog as she was crying, tied up across the road. I begged that I could bring Fiona inside overnight, and we spent all day out in the heat keeping her quiet.

After three days, Errol Watkins arrived from Brisbane and arranged for the wives to fly to Cairns in a private plane. I was able to take Fiona with me, and from there, we flew to Brisbane to my family. After three months, we obtained a permit to return to Darwin as our home had top priority to be repaired. It was a very unusual sight to see a home among the total destruction of Moil. I still remember the trucks manned by sailors loading all the rubbish in our area. Street after street was cleared by these amazing men who worked tirelessly in the hot sun.

My question is, where did all this rubbish get dumped or buried? Fifty years later, Darwin is a beautiful tropical city, and we are still here, wouldn’t live anywhere else. Darwin is home.

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