A coast gripped by anxiety

Eden woman recounts the harrowing realities of a fire crisis

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Robyn and Sean Carey spent many anxious days looking for their former neighbours who lost homes on New Year's Eve.

Robyn and Sean Carey spent many anxious days looking for their former neighbours who lost homes on New Year's Eve.

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Eden woman Lisa details the trauma people face even when their home has been spared from the destructive bush fires on the Far South Coast.

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THE entire far South Coast of NSW has been on edge for more than a week after bushfires ripped through multiple communities.

The experience of one Eden resident is typical of what many have experienced. Lisa has revealed some of the harrowing realities of a bushfire crisis.

Lisa lives atop the hill on Eden's southern end and stayed during the evacuations, but couldn't bring herself to use any water, "Gotta save the water for the fireys, water for defending life only," she recalls.

Getting rest makes her uneasy. "I feel guilty for even trying to sleep when there are exhausted people out there defending us," Lisa says.

She rips herself awake from fiery nightmares to find she's sleepwalking towards the door to check for embers before realising it's a dream. Overnight rain also raised the question, 'is this over?'

"I'm sat wondering when I should start washing everything that's piling up; the towels soaked with black ash from going in and out of the house - barefoot, so I could feel how warm the ground was and make sure those blackened leaves weren't hot."

Susan Magnay returns on New Year's Day to take stock of what she and husband Philip Bell lost at Malua Bay the previous day. Photo: Karleen Minney.

Susan Magnay returns on New Year's Day to take stock of what she and husband Philip Bell lost at Malua Bay the previous day. Photo: Karleen Minney.

"I thought I was doing good waking up halfway to the door, until I remembered how I almost forgot my son's birthday yesterday and promptly burst into shameful tears," she recalls.

She wonders about the long term damage given her now 20-year-old sounds like a pack-a-day smoker.

Lisa says she feels "guilty and stupid, and weak for not being as strong" as others appear and has to remind herself "if you're lucky, life goes on I suppose ... I should feel lucky, but I can't really feel anything except a deep guilt that I almost forgot my son's birthday."

I feel guilty for even trying to sleep when there are exhausted people out there defending us - Lisa, Eden.

For so many "normal" now seems like something intangible, it feels out of their grasp and even foggier in their mind. They've lost loved ones, their homes or their livelihoods.

And for Lisa the idea of pretending things are normal seems just as daunting. "I want to sleep it all away, but I can't. I don't want to go to work, but I have to. Don't we all? Don't we all have to do the whole 'business as usual' thing?"

READ MORE: Patsy, The Corryong Wonder Dog, saves sheep in NYE blaze

READ MORE: Paul Jenkins was among those who championed aerial firefighting for the CFA

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