Local teen survives quake

An Okanagan teen is trying to come to the grips with the fact she just survived a catastrophic earthquake in Nepal.

Hayley Hopp, 18, was born and raised in Kelowna.

A recent graduate of Kelowna Christian School, she has spent the last four months away from home doing humanitarian work.

For the last few weeks, her Youth With A Mission group has called Nepal home. But as they were getting ready to leave Kathmandu on Saturday, the walls began to shake.

“People flew, chairs snapped and the building shook. Everything went black, and I awoke on the floor,” writes Hopp of her experience. “The ground continued trembling, it was the longest 52 seconds of my life. I grasped onto Grace, I didn’t want to die alone.”

She says her life flashed before her eyes as she prayed the building she was in would stay standing.

“The Nepali women screamed. Shrieks of horror. I looked at faces, and they held so much fear.”

Hopp describes everyone emerging from the church and seeing the destruction, taking count and realizing her group was all still alive.

“Then the aftershocks hit. The realization that the ground would continue to shake for the next 48 hours was the most fear-giving thought in the moment,” said Hopp.

“Every 20 minutes, the ground would shake and my heart would drop. I was afraid the next quake would be bigger than the last.”

A day passed and they thought it had stopped. Hopp was finally able to reach her parents and speak with them, but the euphoria was short lived.

“Emotional and hot, the sun beat down and let dehydration kick in. We were tired and told the next aftershock was to be a 6.9, so we waited in anticipation. It came two hours later. Every beat of my heart felt like the ground was shaking. I wished it wouldn’t, I wanted so desperately for it to stop.”

She describes a complete state of panic, destruction and heartbreak as more than 5,500 people were killed and thousands more were injured in the 7.8 magnitude quake.

Hospitals had to be evacuated, buildings were in rubble. Thousands were homeless, but people took care of one another.

“The Nepali people have joined together, whether it be by food or a smile or sharing their homes with one another. We have much to learn from these beautiful people in how they love and give.”

Hopp survived the earthquake in Kathmandu, spending nearly 24 hours without food and water. She finally got out of the country on Thursday.

In transit, the teen was separated from her group and is currently scared and alone in China, while she waits for details on how she will reconnect with them in Thailand.

“It is a nightmare,” shares her mother, Michelle Hopp, near tears. “She is in China all by herself ... She is all alone, she is 18, she is not doing well.”

Michelle says her daughter is scared and having a hard time sharing her emotions and experience.

“She is totally mentally and physically exhausted,” says Michelle. “She has told us she just can't talk about it right now. Her head is spinning and she is overwhelmed.”

She says she and her father are incredibly grateful for one important email, from Hopp's youth group leader, which got to all the parents, letting them know they were all safe – before she had even seen the news.

“I am so thankful I read my email before I watched the news,” says Michelle. “I didn't think it was a major earthquake until I saw the news.”

Hopp is not heading home just yet. She will now fly to Thailand to continue her missionary work.

"We are very, very proud of her. This is definitely a life-changing experience," adds Michelle.

Hopp is expected back on Kelowna soil June 18.

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