Mildred Augot talks about landslide
© Doug Wells photo
Mildred Augot gave a very emotional presentation recently in telling her memories of the Harbour Breton Landslide of August 1, 1973.
Editor’s Note: Mildred Augot, nee Hunt, can still vividly remember the night of August 1, 1973 when her mother Beatrice came close to losing her life in the Harbour Breton Landslide.
Mildred gave a passionate address about her memories of that night at the Elliott Premises on August 1 as she was invited to speak on the event as part of the Commemoration Service held to mark the 40th anniversary of the landslide.
Mildred lived in a residence directly involved in the landslide but was sleeping at a relative’s (Sadie Martin) home on the night of August 1, 1973.
She agreed to share her story with the Coaster.
The following is an excerpt from Mildred’s story, in her own words.
We were awakened that night of August 1, 1973 to what seemed to be 1000 light bulbs being broken at the same time. Jumping out of bed I ran down the stairs.
Sadie and I were looking at one another saying, “What was that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “What a weird sound!”
Then Joyce Martin came in.
She said, “Bill Chapman called Reg from the plant. He said something happened down the road and told him to go right away.”
I remember running down the road. I got down pass Aunt Kathleen’s when someone told me I couldn’t go any further. So I just stood there listening to the man.
“How bad is it!”
“There can’t be anyone alive down there.”
I turned and went back to my Aunt Kathleen’s house.
At daybreak the next morning I could see for myself what had happened. Mom’s words came back to me. See, that night I had to go up and sleep at Sadie’s house because my cousin Leo had to go to Marystown for some plant work.
It was raining, thunder and lightning. Mom said to my brother, “Alex, walk up the road with her because if this keeps up we’ll all be in the land wash in the morning.”
Little did she know when saying those words that the work was in the making!
If you weren’t there you can’t begin to visualize what I saw when I looked down over that hill that morning. Imagine! Seeing all those houses down in the cove. Everything! Everywhere!
There was a house teetering on the side of a cliff. My house was down so far all you could see was just the roof and part of one side stood up in the mud.
Jack and Olive Hickey’s house gone!
Someone said, “They’re taking everyone they get out to the other side of the landslide.”
Everyone – did that mean they were all alive?
Mom, Alex, Jane, Jackie, Ivy, my sister Beatrice and her children, Fonda, Wayne and Allan. We didn’t know on this side of the landslide.
Later that morning we found out – everyone was safe except Mom and four children. They found Mom but were still searching for the children.
Mom was stuck in the mud for about six hours – mud up to her waist and our oil stove was on top of her.
It seemed that Cst. David Colnan said that the more mud we took away from her the more came down.
But through it all she was the bravest of women. She asked for a cup of tea or coffee and one of the rescue workers got it for her.
At one point Mom said, “I think my legs are gone!”
Cst. Colnan pushed his arm down through the mud. He told her no – they’re probably numb from the pressure of the stove on them.
I remember John telling me that they thought they might have to amputate her legs.
John said, “No! You might as well kill her or leave her where she is if you have to do that”
Thank God! That didn’t have to happen. Mom survived another tragedy in her life.
When they brought Mom up that morning, it’s something etched in my memory for life. It was still raining – pouring – and they had a blanket or something over her head. I thought she was dead. I started to scream! But one of the men said, “No, she’s OK. Mom reached out her hand and squeezed mine.
Later that evening I got to see Mom at the hospital. Of course I knew everything by then.
I saw Joanne (Jack’s daughter) who was in a bed near the window.
“Mildred, where’s Mom? How’s everyone.”
I didn’t know what to say. I said that she would be there later.
“Your Mom and Dad will be here later. They’ll know everything.”
Mom had cuts and bruises all over her lower body and one of her feet had a really bad laceration. It was really infected and was causing a lot of problems that we thought would get worse.
But a nurse named Molly King took Mom under her wing during the day and night and even on her days off. She would work on Mom’s foot cutting away the infected areas and cleaning the wound. She performed a miracle. Molly King had a friend for life.
The Bishop came to see Mom later. She told him that she never stopped praying the ‘Our Father’.
He said, “You were praying the most powerful Prayer of all and it was probably the most effective prayer you ever prayed.”
At Joyce’s that night I went to have a bath and realized I had no clothes to change into. Imagine! The feeling of having nothing.
I told Mom about this later. I said, “Mom, I have nothing”
Mom said, “Yes you do, you’re here.”
The next day Sandra Stewart stood on Joyce’s bridge with a bag of clothes – everything I needed until we could get more.
I told her about this one day and she said that she couldn’t remember.
I said, “Of course not, but if you were in my situation you would have.”
I never forgot that individual act of kindness. And the kindness and community spirit showed by so many people during that terrible ordeal.
I remember I said to Mom much later, “They’re going to give us a new home.”
She said, “ What they’re going to give us is a house, we’ll make it a home.”
And we did. We slowly moved on but we always remembered the things we lost in our other home.
Our ‘new’ home was never like the one we lost that night. Because that night four little children were gone with a lot of good memories.
Memories that are written down in school projects and books so people will never forget that history was made on that fateful night.
Editor’s Note: Beatrice Hunt went on to enjoy her new home for many years as she passed away at the age of 83 in 2003. She was 54 at the time of the landslide.