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The Villages That Disappeared

Earthquakes can be part of normal life, especially if you live in the “Quake Zone,” but the aftermath of a quake can be terrible, leaving a devastating and sad legacy for those whose lives were either destroyed or simply disappeared during the earthquake. One legacy of the recent Padang earthquake is of the villages that disappeared.

On April 15th at 2:20 AM in 1912, the clocks stopped when the Titanic sunk, leaving a memory that has fascinated generations since the famous sinking of the Titanic. One date few people may remember will be the 30th September, 2009 at 5:16 PM, when the clocks stopped for many remote villages in Padang, Sumatra.

When whole communities are simply sucked into the ground, and either buried in their homes or under rubble and mud, there is no chance of rebuilding the community. Time finally stopped for the generations of people, who lived, and created soon to be forgotten communities that outlived centuries of history but not a momentary 7.6 magnitude earthquake.

All that shall remain are the memories of these people in the hearts of the relatives and friends of the survivors. Perhaps a simple monument may be placed on the now flattened earth that once was a thriving home and community, but, unlike the Titanic, the Padang villages could disappear from memory.

This is the saddest legacy left by the fatal Padang earthquake. The city of Padang will eventually be rebuilt, but not the villages of the dead. People will fear ghosts, and perhaps a few brave farmers may plant crops on the land, but hastily leave when night falls. No one would want to live above them again.

A legacy we should remember, but in the quake zone it’s a legacy all too familiar and even accepted as part of life. But perhaps however remote or distant these villages were from our own busy lives, we should spare a thought to what was lost.

Three generations of the people who called these villages home disappeared, and with them disappeared a way of life. And this could happen anywhere, in this time of global warming, freak storms and ever stronger earthquakes.

Perhaps it will allow us time to reflect on how life is so fragile, and how in just a few moments a disaster can wipe out any trace of our very own existence. It should warn us that we need to be prepared, and we should respect the dark side of nature, because nature is much more powerful than us.

The villages of the dead may not mean much to us personally, but they are a monument to the often vicious cycle of nature. A nature that if we continue to abuse, could create not only villages but towns, and cities that time could stop forever.

Let us honor the memory of these villages, and may their memory stay in our minds as we pass through life.

Our thanks to Mark Medley for submitting this story !

by Mark W Medley

Copyright © 2008, Mark W Medley, City of Dreams: An extraordinary journey, inside the heart of Indonesia's capital - Jakarta