Our house was 150 feet from the beach that is THE hardest hit beach in Thailand . As water rushed into our house and then ripped open the second story wall, I leapt off our second story roof and swam and swam and swam, riding the wave deep into the jungle, as it destroyed building after building, ripping up trees and spinning diesel trucks into the air. All this with me in the center of it clinging to anything that floats and swimming to avoid the standing buildings or trees that crushed and impaled many others. The wave deposited me, a small Swedish girl and a 60 foot police cruiser (medium sized steel patrol boat - around 20 tons) 1 kilometer from the beach - in the jungle.
For the next 5 hours I set up a triage center and cared for dead and dying foreigners. Finally we got helicopters in, and I made my way back towards the main town. I found Karin (my girlfriend) and collapsed. We had both assumed each other dead as the destruction was so massive. She had climbed a coconut tree, wrapped her arms and legs and held on. The water kept pulling the tree and her under, but it and she survived. That day I saw around 100 bodies. The next day, another 200, and the day we left there were cattle trucks full of rotting corpses being taken to Phuket.
After days of no news, dwindling food and water - a group of divers virtually kidnapped a driver to take us away. Every few hours someone had created a rumor that another wave was coming, or there was a gas explosion, or the Muslim rebels were attacking. None were true, but it caused massive panic and killed many more people. We were already under massive psychological strain, and this just made it insane. We ran.
My town is gone. There are probably 2% of the original buildings in a recognizable form. I am very lucky to even be making my way home. The U.S. government offered me a phone call, a toothbrush, a paperback book and a temporary passport. No hotel, no food, no flight home. I was told that I could take out a loan if I could list three people who would vouch for me at home. The process would only take a few days. I was alone, injured (superficially - but I sure did look bad), no possessions, no money and my government offered me a book.
I don't know who or what to acknowledge for my presence. That will take a lot of soul-searching. I am certainly among the luckiest people in Thailand right now. According to local news it looks like my town had a SURVIVAL rate of 60%.
The out support and questions about my well-being are appreciated and I will reply...eventually.
Please think of what you value. Look around, have you given a hug to someone recently? Anyone? If everything you had were taken away, who would you turn too? In the end it is each other, not the things, which make the world spin. I won't ever forget that.