“I spent New Year’s Eve 2019 sitting in the pitch dark at my best friend Alicia’s house listening to a portable radio while Alicia’s parents, Lyn and Stu, tried to figure out if they would still have a house after the Currowan Fire tore through their township of Lake Conjola. Sadly, they did not.
Many of the students at Ulladulla High School where I teach had lived through the terror of the fires over the entire school holidays and many no longer had a home. We are a resilient school community and were able to offer trauma assistance training for teachers and programs for our students.
Just as we were getting back on our feet, Covid and the lockdown followed.
On 1 July, my family and I celebrated “New Year’s Day” and spoke happily about how the 2nd half of the year would be amazing. We were excited about putting the chaos of the past 6 months behind us.
That day was like any other – busy! It was just 2 days out from term break and we were excited about having the first ‘normal’ holidays since last September. The students were happy and calm. When the bell rang at the end of the day, two of my Year 9 girls stayed back for a chat and we left the class together leaving by different exits.
I left in my car to collect my children but as I turned the corner behind one of the many regular school buses, traffic suddenly stopped. I could see a student lying on the road and assumed she had fallen. I immediately left my car to assist only to find myself looking at Zoie, one of the girls I had just been chatting with. She had been hit by a bus and died at the scene. I could not save her and my life changed forever.
I was diagnosed with PTSD and entered intense counselling straight away. Alicia’s mum, Lyn had just returned from Quest and knew it would be great for Alicia and I to attend as it had helped her so much with her trauma recovery after losing her home, and she was right.
The week that Alicia and I attended Quest changed my life. I learnt coping mechanisms to use in my everyday life and could return to work in an increased capacity. The group dynamics were wonderful, and I was able to just focus on myself and my recovery whilst seeing others do the same.
We all came with different stories, and while some people were slumped with hoods on their heads on that first day, looking hopeless, by the end of the week they were sitting up, alert and communicating.
I believe Quest saved lives that week. And if you add up all the participants who have been there over the years, I imagine the lives saved would be countless.
— Katie shares her story as part of Quest’s 2020 Christmas Appeal.
Photos: Katie & Alicia; Katie at Quest with Petrea; Katie with her children; Katie