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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Australia or New Zealand (01/15/09)

TITLE: "Hello? Anyone there?"
By Kellie Henningsen


“Honey? Do you hear that?”

“Hear what? Go back to sleep. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“There it is again. I’m telling you Charles…I hear something!” insisted Martha.

With a groan of resignation, Ed Haszard slowly sat up and sighed loudly as he stood up and prepared to check out this “noise” which his wife was so insistent upon. What he really wanted to do was roll over and forget that she ever woke him up. He was covering some difficult mathematical principles tomorrow at school and needed his rest so that he could be at his best for his students.

However, no sooner had he stood, then a lightening bolt sliced across the sky making the view out his window as clear as if it were the middle of the day. The vision lasted only a few seconds and then was followed by a thunderous boom. A boom that cut into the silence of the night like a base drum as it pounded out a message of coming doom. Charles dropped back on his bed in both fear and shock. His wife was behind him now and both peered out the bedroom window together.

“What is going on, Charles?” Martha worriedly asked as another equally large bolt of lightening reached its fingers toward the horizon followed by sudden loud explosions making talking difficult. “This has never happened before!”

Moments later, Charles, his wife, and three young children all huddled together watching the frightening display of God’s fury as it tore up the sky. Lightening bolts lashed out in anger one after another and booming explosions shook the very ground the house was on. Rain fell in loud torrents, and the children cried out in fear as Charles slowly realized what was happening. It was not rain that was hitting their little house….it was ash and chunks of mud.

“Quick! Martha! Get the children into the drawing room! Mt. Tarawera is erupting! Hurry!”

“What?” gasped Martha over the increasingly loud sounds coming from their rooftop.

“Children, come quickly…hurry…everything’s going to be ok!” assured Martha to her frightened children. She hoped her voice did not reflect the fear that she felt inside.

“The drawing room has an iron roof – it will be safer here,” Charles spoke in hushed tones to his wife as he and his little family clung to one another.

Suddenly, the force of the ash and mud pounding the house intensified significantly. They could no longer hear each other speak but each offered up the same prayer -- that they would live to see another day.

The storm of debris hitting the house in angry waves emanated a heat so intense it spontaneously started a fire. Charles cautiously left his wife’s side and inched forward to smother the blaze. At that very moment, the walls began to buckle. The screams of his wife and children melted together with his as the entire building creaked, groaned, and gave way bit by bit to the heavy burden it carried. The wooden walls splintered apart into shards of pointy sticks as the iron roof descended nearer and nearer to the little family. Mud rushed in from all sides. The Haszard family was slowly buried alive as New Zealand’s Mt Tarawera continued to pound out it’s fury on the surrounding countryside.

Martha did not know how long she had lain there. The iron roof had come to rest on a pile of debris from the house saving her from being crushed. As she slowly became conscious, her mind tried to make sense of the sounds coming from somewhere above her.

“Hello? Anyone there?”

“Hello? We’ve come to help…anyone in there?”

Did she really hear someone calling? Maybe she was dead. No…she was in too much pain to be dead. This must be real.


Martha struggled with all that was in her to push her hand up towards the surface. She gritted her teeth through the pain as she slowly moved her fingers back and forth. Although this simple movement took all of her mental and physical strength, she realized this was her only chance at survival.

Urgent yelling brought welcome relief to Martha. Her hand had been seen. She would be rescued. But was she the only one? Where was the rest of her family?

Mt. Tarawera claimed the lives of over 100 people on that fateful day of June 10th, 1886. Martha’s husband and three precious children were among the dead.

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This article has been read 612 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/22/09
Oh, what a tragic ending! But great job at putting a human face on this natural disaster.
Kellie Henningsen01/22/09
This is a true story. Charles Haszard was the local schoolteacher. I just added in the descriptive detail. The drawing room, the number of children, the iron roof, and the hand of his wife moving above the mud are all true. I was not able to find his wife's name, however, so I made that part up.
Karlene Jacobsen01/22/09
Well done in the retelling of a historical moment in one person's life and that of a nation.
cindy yarger01/22/09
Very well told. Good job.
Eliza Evans 01/26/09
Great entry idea!

I think you did a really excellent job of re-telling the event. Great use of dialogue. Great description.

One note.
Personally? I would leave out the word God's and say instead "the frightening display of fury as it tore up the sky"

Way to go - Way to write!! :) I am impressed!

Esther Gellert01/27/09
This is beautifully written, but such a tragic story, even more so because it is true.
Jana Kelley01/27/09
Wow, this is really good! I really enjoyed it, tragic as the story is. I felt like I was right there with the family during the episode. Good job!
Joy Faire Stewart01/28/09
Excellent descriptive writing on a factual event. The story flows smoothly and engages your reader nicely. Great job!
LauraLee Shaw01/28/09
What a great idea to approach the topic, and you kept me engaged the whole way through. Good job!
Bryan Ridenour01/28/09
Historical fiction is one of my favorite types of literature to read. You've done a great job!
Deborah Porter 02/04/09
Hi Kellie. Just wanted to leave a quick note (a bit late) to let you know your entry "Hello? Anyone There," actually did very well in the Australia/NZ Challenge. You ranked 7th in Level 1. Well done.

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

You definitely deserve a pat on the back. Well done. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)