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Liberty Belle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 06:02 PM
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Survivor's account of the tsunami--detailed and dramatic
A friend forwarded this e-mail from a survivor of the tsunami. I've read many accounts, but this made the most impact on me:

From: Gene Edgar <ebedgar@u.washington.edu >

Date: January 8, 2005 2:29:43 PM GMT-05:00



Sitting around, day after Christmas,

just staring at

the TV - some movie we've seen before. Mid-morning,

post-breakfast

stupor controlling Karin and me. The power flickers

and we moan. We'll

have to get up and do something? Then we hear some

yelling outside.

I look out the front door, still puffed up with

pride about our new

house, just 400 feet back from the beach. People are

running up our

street yelling. It looks like a fire at the large

two story resort

that effectively blocks our view of the beach. Smoke

and dust coming

up and all these people.

Then a small line of really brown water comes

rolling towards us.

That's weird. But I reckon it must be some strange

full moon high

tide. So we go upstairs so we don't get wet.

I look out the window and try and take some

pictures. There is a

quiet rumble to it, like those white noise

generators that are

supposed to help you sleep. The water is getting

higher and higher and

then it destroys our friends cement bungalow! Then

our front door

caves in, and then water is coming up the stairs!

HOLY SHIT. This was

the last point my brain worked for a long time.

We try and throw a mattress out the window to float

on, but the water

is rising too fast, and out the window we climb.

It's all going so

fast. It's faster than conscious thought and by the

time we are on our

second story roof, the water is coming out the

window. We jump.

Karin doesn't jump at the same time or did I jump

too early? We're

separated. I scream her name, but the crashing

roiling water mutes me.

I can't hear her. I scream and scream until I get

hit by something and

pulled under. I can't swim to the top, I pull myself

through trash and

wood to the surface and off I go.

Ahead are trees wrapped in flotsam and as I look a

Thai guy is

struggling to get free of it, as I pass by at 30 MPH

I realize he is

impaled on a piece of wood and can't even scream.

My brain shut down when Karin disappeared, and now

all I can do is

survive. Something triggers and I swim. I swim to

avoid the trees

which will trap me, possibly kill me. It seems that

I am atop the

crest of the tsunami, which is less like a wave than

a flood.

From on high I can see the water hit buildings,

then rise, then watch

the buildings collapse into piles of concrete and

rebar. I swim to

avoid these. Left and right I paddle, looking ahead

the whole time

trying to figure the hazards. None of this is

conscious, this isn't me

thinking it out, it's some recessed part of the

brain coming out and

taking control.

I was busy seeing the weird things, like massive

diesel trucks being

rolled end over end. Or the car launched through the

2nd storey wall

of a former luggage shop. Or the person high up in a

standing tree in

a lurid orange thong. Or the older foreigner that

got stuck in the

wood and steel wrapped around a tree, and then his

body torn off while

his head remained. I couldn't scream.

I was pulled under, my pants caught on something, I

decided that this

was neither the place nor time for me to die, and

ripped my pants off.

I surfaced into a hunk of wood which cut my

forehead.

A 5 gallon water bottle sped by, and I wrapped

myself around it like

a horny German Shepard on a Chihuahua. I was passing

people with

bleeding faces and caked in refuse. Some people

reached out to me, and

I back, but the water was too fast and erratic. Some

people screamed

for help and I told them to swim. Some people just

stared with empty

eyes, watching what happened, but seeing nothing.

Some were just

floating bodies.

At some point, I passed a guy, cut on his cheek,

holding onto big

piece of foam. We just made eye contact and shrugged

apathetically at

each other. Then I turned ahead to watch fate. When

I looked back he

was gone.

Trees were pulled down, and their flotsam added to

the flow. I was

hit by a refrigerator and pushed towards a building

that was

collapsing. I swam and swam and swam and swam and

still was pushed

right towards a huge clump of jagged sticks and

metal. I was pulled

under, kicked towards the mass, cut my feet and

kicked again. I popped

up on the other side, spun around and pulled under

again.

Down there, I knew it was not the time, and I

pulled my way up

through the floating rubbish of my former town. I

pulled and pulled

and my lungs ached for air. I flashed on Star Wars,

the trash

compactor scene, and had some big grin in the back

of head as I popped

up. Sucking shitty water and air deep in my lungs.

This went on for weeks. Time simply left the area

alone. I grabbed

the edge of a mattress and floated. Breathing, just

breathing.

Awareness brought back by the sound and look of a

water fall. Trying

to push up onto the mattress more and more, and it

took my weight less

and less. Tumbling over the edge, sucked under

again, and out I shot,

swirled into a coconut grove, where the water seemed

to have stopped.

There was even a dyke like wall around the grove.

The water spun and churned, but went no where, and

got no higher. It

wasn't swimming, or climbing, but something in

between. I made my way

to the land. Every step had to be careful with

broken glass

everywhere, and sheet metal poking out. It was a

long slow struggle.

The low rumble had stopped, and now is the

occasional creak of wood

on wood and metal scraping. Moans came across the

new brown lake. A

small boy was in a tree crying, asking for his

parents in Norwegian.

I climbed up onto the dyke and looked around. I

screamed out for

Karin, only getting responses in Thai. I stood

there, panting, trying

to find a thought, anything. As I came back to earth

I needed to pee.

The first thing I did after surviving the tsunami

was piss! Along

limps an older Thai guy, finds me, naked atop a dyke

amid the

destruction, covered in mud and filth - pissing. He

didn't even

smile.nor did I.

I spent the next minutes running from high point to

high point

screaming out for Karin. If I made it, she could

too. There was no

response from her. I found plenty of other people,

and helped who I

could, but always looking across this vast area of

new lakes for her

head.

Through the trees was a PT boat, a large steel

police cruiser. The

boat and I had been brought more than a kilometer

(2/3 mile) inland.

I was standing near a tree, hoping for a clue,

anything to say she

was out there somewhere. A small boy in a tree

whimpered, and I pulled

him down. We went inland. There were houses, still

standing, a whole

neighborhood atop a rise that was untouched. Just

feet away were cars

wrapped around trees. I handed them the boy.

I had finished my medic training exactly one month

before, so I went

to work. Pulling people out of mud, from under

houses. One car,

upright against the trunk of a tree still had the

driver. He was dead.

It went on. Before this I had only seen a dead body

once or twice.

That was remedied very quickly. I pulled people out

of the water, only

to have them choke and die right there. I would take

someone's pulse,

scream for help, then find that they had died before

we could do

anything. It was beyond any nightmare or fear I have

ever had.

An older Thai woman came up to me with a pair of

shorts and averted

eyes. She was ashamed that I was totally naked. I

smirked and slipped

them on. She smiled and scurried away. Was it the

bright white ass or

the fear shriveled cock that had embarrassed her?

Roaming the former streets looking for foreigners

to send to the

higher ground, a place where we could all meet and

tend to wounds.

After an hour the Thais came screaming out of the

mud saying there was

another wave coming , and flying into the hills. We

were left alone.

Those that could walk did, the rest were carried. We

made a new base,

higher and safer. And the same thing happened again.

And again.

Eventually we ended up in the jungle at a park,

where there was water

and high ground. It was messy. Eventually there were

about 300

foreigners, about 120 of whom were injured pretty

severely with broken

limbs and ribs, near-drownings, everyone had gashes

of some kind,

severed fingers or toes and shock everywhere.

There was no medicine, no tools, no scissors, no

bandages. Nothing

but well water (of questionable cleanliness) and

some sticks and

clothes. I tried to find anyone medically trained.

It was only the

diving instructors who all had basic first aid. So

we cleaned with the

water, we broke sticks and set bones and talked

people into a

relatively calm place. If someone was severely cut,

we used their own

clothing to mend the wounds. It was a horror story.

The floor was

covered in blood, people were moaning, or vomiting

or asking us to

help them. And more arrived with every new wave of

cars and trucks

fleeing the "next wave".

After hours of this, we got news of helicopters

evacuating the

injured. So everyone rushed towards the trucks. I

had to scream and

push and pull people out of the way. The ones who

needed the evac the

most were the ones who couldn't get to the trucks.

After twenty

minutes of sorting through the priorities, and

feeling like we had a

handle on it, someone brought me to a girl who was

bleeding severely

out of her thigh and was in shock. No one had

brought her to our

little clinic area, they had left her in the back of

truck.

Finally, after a few helicopters had pulled out the

worst, I headed

back down.

Through rubber tree plantations, and coconut groves

we drove. It

seemed quiet and relaxed. At the last corner it was

devastation. The

road was clear and dry up to a certain point and

then it was a horizon

of rubble. I shuddered.

Someone on a scooter came up and asked for a

doctor. Everyone looked

at me! I jumped on and they took me up roads I never

knew existed, and

over bridges that were barely standing until I was

brought to five

foreigners in the middle of nowhere. One of them was

a good friend and

diving instructor. It was the first person I had

seen that I knew. It

was a total joy. He was banged up pretty bad, but he

got out and sent

off to the hospital. Then the Thais came roaring up

the hill, saying

there was another wave. We had to carry four more

people with broken

bones (including a broken hip) up a hill. There was

no wave. There

never was.

I stumbled back down, wandering through the town

looking for people

to help. I found only bodies. I found one with a

tattoo like Karin's

on a scooter under some rubble. I pulled her out,

and it was a Thai

woman. Still griping her scooter, mouth agape.

Eventually I made my way back to the dive shop I

worked at. We had

always whinged about how it was too far off the main

road, but it

survived. It was a center for the survivors. I

walked up to find

friends alive and things clean and organized.

I had been able to keep on, doing what I could to

help people, to

close out my mind to what was around me and look

only at what I was

doing, to not see the dead people, to not worry

about where Karin was.

I had held together so well.

When I found out Karin was alive it all fell apart.

I could smell the

destruction, the horror I had just walked through,

just lived through,

that she had lived through. My body shouted out all

the bruises and

cuts I had ignored. It all struck me and threw me to

the ground. It

was too much - I could no longer accept this.

We hugged and ate and slept. My feet were cut up, I

had small cuts

all over my body, and a sinus infection from all the

bad water.

Karin had gotten hold of a coconut tree, wrapped

herself around it

and never let go. She had a few bruises and small

cuts and a black

eye. I was ecstatic to see her like that. First time

I've been happy

to see a woman with a black eye.

Most of the rest of our friends had come through.

They had set up

first aid stations and help stations, organized food

and created a

center for people to meet. The diving community came

together and

became our support, our medical care, our food -

they did everything

they could to help and then some.

I can't help but give massive appreciation and even

a bit of awe to

several people. Whether you know them or not, these

are the true

heroes. Keith - he was tireless - for days, running

around, getting

medicine, doing first aid, cooking food, getting

clothes, talking to

the forlorn, coordinating doing everything he could.

His energy was

endless and bright.

Jim and Andrea opened the doors of their shop, and

clothed and housed

everyone they could. Joakim ran about grabbing

people, helping

wherever he could, evacuating people to the next

town, the whole while

wondering about the safety of his own family. And

the two DMT's that

helped me out - two guys who had just taken a first

aid class and then

had to deal with massive trauma, death and chaos.

And all the others -

this was not the work of just one or two people.

Of course the diving community at large shined like

a beacon over the

madness. When there was no one else, they all

stepped forward. I can't

help but swell with pride to count myself among

them.



The next day I went back to where my house had been

and surveyed the

damage. One bungalow nearby had been lifted up and

dropped on top of

another. The whole beach was visible, meaning all of

the two or three

story hotels that had lined it were gone. There was

a jet ski just

near our house. The bottom floor of our house was

gone, the upper

floor was missing a couple of walls. The only thing

left, was a

plastic Jesus doll I had bought as a joke.

So I was left with nothing in the world except my

own plastic Jesus.

The level of destruction is virtually impossible to

describe. On our

beach we had approx. 2500 hotel rooms. It looked to

me, that maybe 50

could still be called hotel rooms. The week between

Christmas and New

Year's is the busiest of the week. Without warning,

without an

evacuation plan the survival rates were minimal. The

wave at our house

was about 7 meters high (20 feet) and in some places

it was 10 meters

(30 feet) high. It wiped out the third floor of most

resorts. The

number of dead is astronomical, several thousand on

my beach alone. By

the second day you could smell it, and in the short

walk to my former

house, we passed about 10 bodies just strewn about.

Our final glance of the town was a cattle truck

stacked full of

wrapped up corpses. We wanted to go home.



In Bangkok most people got help pretty quick. The

Swedes, Germans and

English had charted flights for their citizens to

get home. The Thai

government gave free hotel rooms to survivors and

there were lists of

places to get food.



EXCEPT the Americans. I went in to find out what

help I could get - I

was able to get a replacement passport, a toothbrush

and a paperback

book. They said it was not their policy to arrange

flights home. I was

cut up, still covered in a pretty good layer of mud,

I had no home, no

money, no clothing (except some borrowed off Keith)

nothing at all,

and they could do nothing to help.

They did offer to let me borrow money, but they

would have to find

three people in America who would vouch for me, and

that process

should take less than a week. In the mean time I was

fucked. I was

destitute and rejected by the embassy. Karin was

with me (she's

Swedish) and said that I could still try and

emigrate to Sweden. I was

VERY tempted.

In these last days, watching politicians go on

about helping and

giving aide, but they won't even take care of their

own citizens? I am

very, very angry. All the other nations of the world

were taking care

of their own citizens! Eventually I got a flight

home with JAL - that

would be JAPAN airlines - not even an American

company, but a JAPANESE

company helped me get home.

I am still listed as neither found nor alive.

Before I left I had

spoken to the embassy twice on the phone, giving my

name so I would be

listed as alive so my family would not worry. I went

to the embassy

twice, once to get a passport to replace the one

lost in the tsunami,

and they never listed me as alive or found. I flew

out of the country

using said passport and am still not found. I went

to the hospital

three times, and, as of yesterday I am now listed as

injured (having

been in the states three days already). My family is

now waiting to

see how long it will take before they are notified

about my status. So

am I.

It does raise a good question - if I am missing or

dead, do I have to

pay taxes?



While spiteful about the embassy, I am grateful to

be alive, and that

those I care about are still alive. I still look

around and am in awe

at what just happened. I really feel like someone

has slipped me some

roofies and I woke up in America.




No real moral to this story.yet.




While not exactly destitute - I am rich in friends

- I am fairly

skint, as almost all my money, all my dive gear (my

income), as well

as my laptop (years of pictures and writing gone)

and most everything

else is probably floating somewhere near Burma.


<snip> (deleted personal appeal for funds, per forum rules)


I would further recommend going to

www.diveaid.co.uk . These are

divers helping divers. Most of our community, while

surviving, lost

everything. This is a great site with some news of

the area and those

affected.



My story is just one, there and 100,000's more far

worse off - I had

somewhere to fly to. Donations should be sent to

good charities, ones

that truly help. Doctors Without borders

http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org and the

Thailand Red Cross

http://www.redcross.or.th/english/home/index.php4

were both there fast

and helping out immensely. I can't speak, or even

dream of what it

must be like in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.




Breathe.









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Quakerfriend Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 07:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. Wow, just wow.
Blew me away totally.
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reorg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 07:13 PM
Response to Original message
2. a toothbrush?

WTF
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Paranoid_Portlander Donating Member (823 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 04:27 PM
Response to Original message
3. Only 3 responses to this thread?
.
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radwriter0555 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 04:49 PM
Response to Original message
4. Every OTHER NATION sent planes, money, food, embassy reps, while the GREAT
EST nation on the PLANET didn't do SQUAT?

Sounds like America Under A Bush.

Gosh, I'm SO proud!
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idiosyncratic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 04:49 PM
Response to Original message
5. "This went on for weeks."
That is an unbelievably well-written account that really imparts what it must have been like.

I am so glad he, and his girlfriend, survived.
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canadianbeaver Donating Member (929 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 04:51 PM
Response to Original message
6. May he and all who went through this find some peace.....
unbelievable horrors....almost too much for some to comprehend....it is amazing (not) how the American Admin. cares for their people....That is outragous...


I have been praying for every soul who had to endure this...as it has touch the world....

I have cried many tears :cry: and they won't stop in the near future
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Lex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 10:30 PM
Response to Original message
7. kick
This is a very compelling account of a tsunami survivor.





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Eloriel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 11:02 PM
Response to Original message
8. Quite remarkable
Not possible for me to really process it.
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crispini Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 11:08 PM
Response to Original message
9. wow. nt
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jhain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 11:18 PM
Response to Original message
10. I could read this 100 times and still not
really imagine it.
And I live on the coast... Atlantic...
Every story leaves me speechless........

May I share this? Do you know the author's name?
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HeeBGBz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-13-05 11:26 PM
Response to Original message
11. What a scary experience
His account is fascinating. What a horror that must have been floating in that mass of debris.
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