Cyclone Tracy: Photo exhibition and song to mark 40 years since disasterBy Ruby Jones and Rick Hind, Tuesday August 5, 2014 - 22:47 EST
It has been almost four decades since Cyclone Tracy tore through Darwin on Christmas Day 1974, destroying homes and taking 71 lives.
The City of Darwin Council has announced a series of grants for exhibitions and commemoration events to mark the 40th anniversary of the disaster.
Grant recipient and photographer Baz Ledwidge remembers the night well.
"We had been threatened two weeks before with a cyclone that was going to blow us away and that didn't turn up. We all went, well it's not going to hit us this time, so we went on a pub crawl, we went to every pub in town," he said.
"About midnight it was really starting to blow and we knew it was more than just a little blow.
"We just stayed awake and hoped the roof wasn't going to go in, all the windows blew in.
"All the louvres blew in and everything, but we still had a roof so day by day after that all our friends moved in because they had no accommodation."
The morning after, and for several days following Cyclone Tracy, Baz Ledwidge took photos.
"Especially the shots up the end of the mall, the photos I took up there are sort of before any bulldozers came through the mall. It's as it was the first thing in the morning. It's still raining," he said.
The photos will be exhibited for the first time in December in Darwin as part of the commemorations.
"I just feel that the photos should be on the display somewhere, it's no good to me having them at home," he said.
Tom and Liz Crosby also survived Tracy.
"During the first half of the cyclone, half the roof came off the house. The eye came over us, and we spent 20 minutes outside talking to the neighbours, and during the second half of the blow the other half of the roof went," Mr Crosby said.
When daylight came he surveyed the damage.
"I climbed up on the roof and all I could see was wide open spaces, no leaves on the trees, and saw there were a hell of a lot of people worse off than we were."
He was thankful that Tracy struck at night, hitting Darwin around 2:00am.
"The good thing about it was it was dark, you couldn't see what was going on outside. If you were able to see it, it would have been worse," he said.
Liz Crosby said the sound was horrific.
"I always liken it to a 747 being in your lounge room, that's how bad the noise was," she said.
In the aftermath of the storm, Liz and their four children were evacuated but Tom stayed behind to help rebuild.
"It was really horrible being away from Tommy and not knowing what was going on here, whether there would be disease because of the water. So it was quite a worrying time, was just missing him really badly," she said.
She wrote letters to her husband two or three times a week from Albion Park near Wollongong in New South Wales until she returned to Darwin four months later.
Their granddaughter, Jenni Boon, has used their correspondence as the inspiration for a song she will produce for the anniversary.
"It was a beautiful letter that I just felt like I needed to tell it in the best way I could, which was through songwriting," she said.
The City of Darwin has so far handed out 10 grants for works related to Cyclone Tracy.
But Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim said a further $100,000 is still to be allocated for 40th anniversary commemorations.
"In the next coming weeks we'll be announcing more events and program partners," she said.
© ABC 2014
More breaking news
Mildura houseboat operators are moving their fleets off the Murray River to the Darling River because of rising water levels, faster flows, and increased debris.
Thunderstorms developing over northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland this afternoon are just a preview for an action-packed Friday.
Floodwaters can bring destruction to homes, crops and infrastructure but they can also bring life.