‘This photo was taken the day before 180 people were crushed. With destruction all around, I had to try to make a difference.’: Earthquake survivor reflects on the importance of leadership

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“Can you pinpoint a time when the true leader within you was born? I can.

It was 7 years ago yesterday—April 25, 2015 in the aftermath of the huge earthquake in Nepal.

The photo down below was taken the day before the earthquake.

The next day, I stood on top of the rubble of the 50-meter high tower in Nepal’s historic center, with 180 people crushed underneath, emergency services with nothing but a pickaxe, and everybody standing around feeling helpless and doing nothing.

I knew in my heart, standing on top of the debris with death and destruction all around, that I would have to gather every part of myself and step up as a powerful leader to try and make a difference.

I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do what I could to try to save people. Some 9,000 people ended up, unfortunately, dying in the earthquake, and 1,000s more were injured.

I and my now husband were in the middle of it. In fact, he ran through it to die in my arms (and thankfully didn’t die).

People often think the ground shakes in an earthquake, or at least that’s what I thought before being in the middle of one.

Instead, it’s like being on an horrifically stormy ocean with the ground literally rolling underneath you.

On top of the rubble, I knew I had to take action to try and rescue people, but my head was screaming at me:

– Who am I to help with this?

– I don’t have what I need to help!

– I don’t know what I’m doing!

– I’m not skilled enough!

But all the while, nothing was being done.

I couldn’t take it any longer…

I connected to the core of my being, rolled up my sleeves, threw my hands into the air, and shouted out to the people standing on the rubble…


And with that, the true leader within me was born.

I shouted out again across the shell shocked crowds and the 1,000s of flip-flops strewn all around…


And to my delight, people starting raising their hands too in solidarity and commitment.

Person by person, a small crowd was gathered, ready to try and make a difference.

And then we began slowly, piece by piece, moving some of the mountain of rubble, hunting for hope of life.

Although we didn’t manage to rescue anyone that day, I know in my heart we did the best we could.

I feel proud I bust through my limiting beliefs and chose to take charge with positive action for the greater good, trying to make a difference and not caring what I looked like to others.

A true leader is born when they listen to the calling deep inside and step up to try and make a positive impact, even though they may not feel they have everything in place yet or fully know what they are doing!”

Interracial couple smiling while standing in front of a tower in Nepal’s historic center
Courtesy of Melissa Wright-Khan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Wright-Khan. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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