Now 87 and liv­ing in nearby Cun­derdin, Ann Wil­liams re­mem­bers the colour of the sky on that Mon­day morn­ing.

It was an un­usual green­ish-yel­low. It was a colour she had never seen be­fore. And one she never wants to see again. It was windy, with strong gusts blow­ing leaves and sticks against the house.

Mrs Wil­liams was mak­ing a cup of tea for her vis­it­ing brother-in-law and her hus­band Trevor, who had just re­turned from a trip into town to de­liver lambs to the rail head.

“I had just put the cups and saucers out on the ta­ble and the cups star­tled rat­tling on the saucers,” she said. “Ev­ery­thing shook and rat­tled. The noise just kept get­ting louder and louder.

“I man­aged to get out­side to try to reach the back room where the two chil­dren were, but I was thrown against a wall.

“Then I saw the pad­dock look­ing like a sea of waves and the trees were shak­ing vi­o­lently, break­ing off limbs and branches. I can still hear the noise of the things fall­ing and crash­ing in­side the house.

“After I got to where the chil­dren were, I couldn’t see any­thing for dust. I yelled out and they an­swered.

“They had man­aged to pull the door open to get them­selves out. They were cough­ing and splut­ter­ing and cov­ered in dust.

“Our neigh­bour’s house was lit­er­ally just a roof on top of a pile of rub­ble.

“An 88-year-old lady was buried in the rub­ble. Four men had to get through the roof and the ceil­ing to find her.

“Some­how she had man­aged to get her face un­der a small ta­ble and use a hand­ker­chief to brush the dirt and dust away from her mouth and nose.

“Over the fol­low­ing few weeks, I helped in the emer­gency kitchen that had been set up at the show­grounds to feed the lo­cals.

“We made nearly 9000 meals over three weeks.

“Peo­ple could not have been more gen­er­ous. We got do­na­tions from ev­ery­where. Peo­ple in Northam do­nated fry­ing pans. Oth­ers do­nated sheep for slaugh­ter. Peters Ice Cream brought up re­frig­er­a­tors from Perth. And we had do­na­tions of milk, cream, eggs and but­ter.

“Out-of-town peo­ple ar­rived at the show­grounds with cars loaded with bis­cuits and cakes.

“No one went with­out. Peo­ple even made sure ev­ery­one in town had a Christ­mas cake or pud­ding for Christ­mas Day.

“Peo­ple were ab­so­lutely won­der­ful. Ex­cept the loot­ers. Some peo­ple lost gar­den hoses, pot plants, even fruit off their trees.”

Pic­ture: Sharon Smith

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