The night a house fell into the ground


FALMOUTH, N.S. – The ground fell out from under Heather Strickey’s feet this weekend when her family’s “dream home” in a well-kept Nova Scotia neighbourhood started being swallowed by a sinkhole.

Municipal authorities in Falmouth, about 70 kilometres from Halifax, said the family of four will not be able to retrieve their remaining possessions before the two-storey house is demolished, taking 10 years of memories with it.

Strickey, who works at a local private school, and her 16-year-old daughter were inside the house early Sunday morning when they awoke to the sounds of what they believed to be an intruder. Here is her account of the incident, as told to reporter Adina Bresge of The Canadian Press.

Note: This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The sounds were like someone pulling something along the floor, or maybe taking things off the walls.

(Before) I called 911, I paused for a few moments or minutes to see if I could possibly be wrong. But it was too loud.

I was speaking very quietly, because if it was an intruder, I didn’t want to alert them that we were here. My daughter, Julia, came into the room and said, “Mom, I think there’s someone downstairs.”

The power goes off very quickly, followed by the crashing and some breaking of glass. Julia and I grab the best weapons we can come up with and go into the (bathroom) closet and shut the door.

I had a nail file, which I was going to use to pluck eyes if I had to. Julia actually did a little more thinking and grabbed a very heavy magnifying mirror, so I think she was going to wield that.

We basically went shoulder-to-shoulder and we waited. I looked down at my phone and it’s about 17 minutes in. (The emergency dispatcher) tells me it should be about five more minutes. These are the longest minutes of your life.

As soon as I heard footsteps, I was going to shove Julia into the attic and try to hold off until the RCMP got there.

(The dispatcher) says there’s an officer on scene, and almost immediately, she says, “Not an invasion.”

Our house wasn’t being broken into. It was being broken down into a hole.

The idea that humans could be trying to hurt us was so much more scary than something that happened by nature, or whatever this is. It’s still relief that I don’t have to worry about someone jumping at me with a knife or a gun.

What I didn’t realize is that (three or four metres) from where we’re going down the staircase, there’s no floor anymore. There’s a gaping hole and I could see my furniture sliding in.

It’s definitely a Hollywood experience. You have the Titanic going over on its side.

(The dispatcher) tells us, “You need to get out of your house now, and grab some stuff.”

My beloved 16-year-old loves basketball, so she grabbed her basketball speakers and her McDonald’s uniform, thinking that perhaps she could still work her shift at 8 a.m.

I didn’t grab passports, or money, or my wedding rings — nothing. I was going to work out, so no word of a lie, I grabbed my workout bag.

The rest of our family was (away) in the city because they were greeting the new students coming to our school.

(My husband) had a hard time trying to understand what had happened. Julia and I had lived it, so we got it, but he had to see it.

It looks like someone pressed down with a very mighty hand into the middle of your house and pushed it into the ground.

If you look closer, you can see there’s a giant hole. You can see my rose garden holding on saying, “No, we don’t want to go!”

(The firefighters) went in an grabbed our passports, our jewellery. He’s literally coming out with things like photo albums and pictures from the wall that were irreplaceable. I wasn’t thinking that way, but he was.

At no point did I think we’ll never get in the house again.

(Municipal officials) want the structure — they would call it a structure, we refer to it as our home — torn down, so that the possibility of someone being harmed by it coming down (on its own) disappears.

They’re being respectful, but we don’t want anything to happen until we hear from the insurance. Our ideal scenario is that we’d be able to salvage some things from the house.

The security officer said that the traffic (near the property) is similar to what he sees when the exhibition is in town. People are getting out of their cars and taking pictures.

I understand people’s interest, but I don’t think they get that it’s a complete tragedy for our family. I can’t complain, we’re all safe, but we’ve literally lost pretty well everything.

My (13-year-old) is super-duper sad. Basically, every memory that she has is based on our lives in that home.

It truly was our dream home. There wasn’t anything I wanted to change about this house. I loved it just the way it was.

We are blessed. We’ve had at least 30 people offer us a place to live.

I may as well work today and get things some things done. I can’t get the keys to my Volkswagen because they’re at a bottom of a sink hole. So I have a car, but I can’t drive it.

I don’t have a house to clean. I don’t have laundry to do. So, let’s press on.

Our (family’s) mantra is, “It was things, not people.” We’ll have things again.