Elnimon, a teacher at a school in Solok, managed to get all of her pupils out before the school burned down.
"At the time when it happened all the children were screaming, and we all ran outside and then we ran to the rice fields," she said.
But five adults in the next-door snack bar were not so lucky, they were crushed and died when a wall collapsed on them.
Although the earthquake lasted less than a minute, it caused widespread panic.
Elisa Mutia, a widowed mother of five, was washing the dishes when the earthquake struck and was buried under the kitchen wall.
She told Al Jazeera that pure strength and a belief in God gave her the will to pull free.
"I was very sacred and I thought about my parents - they were still on their own at home," Tawanti Nenofti, another survivor told Al Jazeera.
Western Sumatra has experienced tremors before, but not on this scale.
Tuesday's earthquake killed 52 people and leveled thousands of homes and businesses.
It occurred 30km below ground and the number of casualties could have been significantly higher if it was any closer to the surface.
The initial quake was followed within the hour by a powerful aftershock, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale; most of the victims were injured or killed in this second wave.
Elnimon managed to get all of her pupils out
of the school before it burned down
At the time of the earthquake, many survivors feared the tremor might also trigger a tsunami.
Hamish Macdonald, reporting for Al Jazeera from Padang, said: "People did fear that a tsunami was on its way but ... the tremor occurred inland so there was no risk of a Tsunami, certainly the measures that have been put in place in this region as a result of the experiences of 2004 - the tsunamis that struck Sumatra on Boxing Day -those lessons appear to have been learned."
"There are signs up throughout this city warning people in the event of a tsunami to find higher ground there are posters everywhere pointing people in the direction of specific locations where they are told they will be safer in that event and certainly yesterday, when the earthquakes hit, people did try and head in those directions," he said.
A rescue and clean-up operation is under way, families of those killed have begun to bury their loved ones and slowly things are getting back to normal.
Compared to the 2004 tsunami and Indonesia's other natural disasters the earthquake in Western Sumatra was at the lower end of the scale.
But Iryal Ilyas, the deputy mayor of Solok, told Al Jazeera: "Compared to the other areas, the death toll in this village [Solok] is quite small, but it is still a great loss for us."