An interview with Sr. Margret Convey
"The earth . Terrible earth quake and our water tanks we ran outside and I think it wasn't long after that I've lost time and sequence of everything." .
"I think it was before . The second earth quake, there was this terrible noise . . Most of the village people came out. We were so close to their village . We were all standing there in silence, and they were all standing there wondering what on earth this noise was A number of people started running down towards the beach just to see what it was.
I don't know what it was . Something in me said it was a tidal wave. I don't know why because I've never being through a tidal wave before . It was just this horrific noise and I just said it's a tidal wave and so sister Regina who was besides me She screamed out to them to come back. I thank lord a lot for them (many) did come back.
This happened so fast there was crying because one mother lost her baby. We went down to her We heard her swimming in the lagoon. Even then while staying with the mother who lost a baby, we still didn't realize how bad it was until we walked back towards our house. Later we saw people coming from this direction and big Malol.
The first one we met was Benan, one of our prayer leaders His home was gone So we immediately took him inside and we got second hand clothing and food. We put him in our house for the night.
Then the next think I knew it was Sr. Linah and another nurse George came and I think I sort of relaxed at that minute, because it was such a relief There were two nurses. One was a wonderful nurse who knew what to do. She took over and ordered us around and we all jumped in and did what we could, but I don't feel like a hero at all but it was just sheer desperation.
I stayed a couple of days in Aitape. I stayed until the Sunday week and then I knew I had to have a break. When I came back again I feel that the people are in such shock I feel they are to come to terms with it. But it's more a worry now as to where they are to settle. Whether they are going to have their houses what is going to happen to them? But they are beginning to talk Now they are beginning to talk and laugh again.
I think once you hear them laughing, you know that there is healing on the way. So hopefully we are here to help just a little bit
HOW DID THEY COPE WITH SO MANY DEATHS?
On the Saturday morning early, we knew they found bodies in the baret (drain) there and the little baret down this way, Some body then told me that Teles was washed out . A little girl was brought up to us. She was dead; they had found her
(Sr. talks more about the unsuccessful search for the girl's parents.)
And then I jumped into the tractor and walked down to Teles just to see if the people down there were needing a hand and I met mama (mother) after mamas with little babies (dead!)
When I went to put a little sign of the cross on their foreheads they were cold and dead. I did not really cope really well at all The mamas were going off to bury them. I got a little more and more upset as I went along because there would have being eight or nine that I met. ..
Then I left them and I came back and went across to big Malol. Then I saw dead bodies everywhere I think I was as stunned as the people were You felt so helpless
DID YOU PRAY?
When it was happening, we could hear it we knew there was something awful happening I was absolutely petrified because once I said it was a tidal wave I realized that could be the end of me too . I'm afraid I was not thinking of God at that stage, I was just so petrified.
That night when we were helping people we prayed. Put on the generator and hundreds of people went into the church because all this villages emptied out and came up to us.
I've never been so edified as I was by the people in that church just sitting all night and they prayed and prayed and prayed I went in there between helping out with the bandages and other groups trying to give them water and settle them down
But yes I prayed but I think it was the faith of the people that made me pray. It wasn't me getting them to pray they prayed I joined them.
DID THEY CRY A LOT?
At that stage no like the mama who lost the baby she did cry earlier . It took us a while to settle down No, there was no crying, I think everyone was too stunned. I think they were as mystified as I was as to what happened what this is all about.
(The interview was taken on Sunday, August 6th 1998 at Malol. The interviewer was Noella Wavu and Fr. Zdzislaw Mlak svd from the Religious Television Association)