Tears welled in his eyes as Binayak Marahatta recounted stories about members of his family and painful experiences they endured after the devastating earthquake that battered his homeland of Nepal over the weekend.
Marahatta was among nearly 400 mourners who assembled Wednesday night before the State Capitol for a candlelight vigil to commemorate more than 5,000 lives lost to the massive quake that struck the Himalayan nation on Saturday.
“Four of my relatives died,” said Marahatta, of Apple Valley. “I learned about their death today.”
Marahatta, a product compliance engineer, was on vacation last weekend when he first learned the news about the deadly quake that hit the capital Kathmandu, where he came of age — and where his parents still live.
“I was shocked when I saw the images,” he said. “Right away, I started calling families back home. I couldn’t get hold of them. The phone didn’t go through.”
Marahatta, one of approximately 3,000 Nepalis who make Minnesota home, turned to Facebook for answers about the quake and whether his loved ones were alive. Luckily, he said, he learned that his parents were out of town and away from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Standing more than 7,000 miles away from the quake-ravaged Nepal, Marahatta said that he was sad because he couldn’t be with the victims to support and comfort them. But one thing, he could do: Pray for them.
Relief funds for victims
The Association of Nepalis in Minnesota has so far raised $50,000 to help those affected by the earthquake, which uprooted hundreds of thousands and destroyed hundreds of villages.
“Rescue efforts have already started, and it’s indeed heartwarming to observe people around the world come together to help Nepal at this time of despair,” said Apeckchya Karki, president of the association. “Thanks to all Minnesotan friends, families and colleagues, who have lent their support and love to the people of Nepal.”
She added that the fund would provide the victims with immediate relief and recovery. “But this will not be enough as the destruction is massive,” Karki told the crowd. “I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you for more help for the people of Nepal. Help us in anyway you can.
“The destruction has broken our hearts, but it has not broken our spirit. What has happened is heartbreaking and heart ravaging, but what lies ahead is bigger and more important. We have to save as many lives as we can and help rehabilitate the displaced.”
About half a dozen state leaders joined the vigil and stood in solidarity with the mourners. Among them was Minnesota Department of Human Rights commissioner Kevin Lindsey.
“Let’s pray tonight for the lives that we lost,” said Lindsey. “Let’s be committed to working to gather to ensure that recovery comes to Nepal and that the spirit of Nepal goes forward.”