Rama Upadhyay, 52, had one chance to go back into her house in Kathmandu after Saturday’s devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal.
She made sure to grab her passport and airline ticket so that she could visit her son in Richland.
Upadhyay wore the items on her chest until the flight could take off. She arrived to visit her son, Piyush Upadhyay, 32, a researcher at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, she took part in a candlelight vigil for the victims at Howard Amon Park in Richland. She joined about 25 other people, many of whom have family in Nepal.
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She recalled in Nepali — with her son translating — going out and standing in the front gate after her house started shaking.
“They saw that all the people in the neighborhood came out screaming,” he said.
She slept in a makeshift tent with her neighbors, enduring aftershocks in the rain next to a ditch, Piyush Upadhyay said. They were lucky to be OK, but they knew that more severely injured people would be getting assistance.
“They knew they were not going to get help from anybody,” he said.
Luckily, the airport was operational, and she was able to get out Monday, after a delay. “She’s happy that she’s alive now to meet us all,” Piyush Upadhyay said.
The group took donations before the vigil at the fingernail stage. They had crossed out the “2,000,” representing the number of victims of the quake, that they had written on poster board for a similar event Sunday. It now read “6,000.”
And they fear it will have to be changed again.
“All the remote locations, the government has not been able to reach yet,” said Abhi Silwal, 29, who moved from Nepal to Prosser to study at Washington State University’s research station. “I think the number could, quite possibly, double.”
Silwal was fortunate that his grandmother was not among the victims, he said. She was forced to jump from the second floor of her building after the quake hit, but Silwal’s brother caught her.
“The building just fell behind her,” he said.
The effort led by the tightknit local Nepali community had raised about $3,500 before Wednesday evening, Piyush Upadhyay said. His coworkers at PNNL have been very supportive.
The group spelled out “Pray for Nepal” with small candles, then lit them. Then each of the attendees used the candles to light their own candles. They shared a moment of silence for the victims.
“To the people who love Nepal and everybody who loves Nepal, it’s devastating,” said Shalik Pandey, 37, of Kennewick. “We’re far away, but we can’t do anything but cry.”