First Hand Experiences of Some of the Survivors of the
Tsunami’s in the
P.S. These emails were sent to me on Monday,
January 3rd by a friend (and co-worker) in
------------third email message
Ours is not a story of heroism,
but a story of good fortune, of fleeing, fear, confusion, and appreciation for
the people of
Before I give details of that day it is interesting to note some of our very lucky timing:
scheduled to take a ferry to
I had seriously thought of going to Khao Lak on Dec. 26th for a day by myself, my wife Debbie tried to talk me into that morning thinking it would be good for me to get away for the day. 3,854 people have been reported dead there so far.
Debbie jogged on the beach one hour before the tsunami hit. She had an uncomfortable feeling because the waves and wind felt unusual to her.
Louis and I were snorkeling when the tsunami hit but had climbed out on the rocks for a moment.
Sam was in the room, not on the beach as usual because he was sick.
At the beginning of our trip my wife Debbie had an intuitive feeling that this might not be a safe trip. She asked me in the driveway if I felt good about the trip. I was apprehensive but not because I felt we would experience a disaster. I did feel that this trip might be too much for the kids. Of course I wasn’t going to tell anybody.
Our trip started with two
wonderful days and nights in
On the morning of December 26th
we had breakfast in shifts since our oldest son Louis liked to sleep in. Debbie
jogged on the beach and came back reporting the waves seemed larger than usual.
After breakfast Louis and I decided to go snorkeling. Sam and Debbie would stay
at the hotel rather than go to the beach as usual since Sam had been sick.
Debbie was going to get a foot massage while Sam waited in the room drawing and
watching a movie on his portable
At about Louis and I headed to the beach. Little
did we know that a 9.0 earthquake had already struck about 250 miles away and a
Tsunami was heading towards us at jet -liner like speed.
We never felt the quake. I tried to talk Louis into walking to the south part
of the beach several times as it was windy and it looked more sheltered there.
Louis felt it would be just fine if we snorkeled at the north end, so we
entered the water there. We snorkeled around for about ten minutes going in and
out of rock outcrops. Our plan was to keep working our way out, taking breaks
along the way by climbing up on the rocks. After about ten minutes we saw a man
fishing. We were worried about being snagged by his lure and we didn’t want to
disturb him so we climbed up on the rocks near him intent on reentering the
water about 15ft. on the other side of him. We started to talk to him and
learned he was English but had married a Thai woman and had lived in
We talked with the man for about ten minutes and all of a sudden we noticed that the water level had dropped about ten feet in two minutes. The man said that seeing the water drop like that was strange and he had never experienced this in his ten years there. Nonetheless, he decided to walk around on the rocks to retrieve a lure he had lost earlier. Hundred of fish were stuck on the rocks, desperately trying to flop down to the water. The man kicked at the fish, helping them flop to the water. People in the boats in the harbor began blowing whistles and air horns. I looked around to see what the problem could be. The water level then started to rise rapidly. Within two minutes the water level rose ten feet and continued to rise rapidly. The man was now surrounded with water and we then knew it was vital that we get out of there as quickly as possible. It was at that point that I knew we were experiencing a tsunami. Louis and I started to run and jump urgently from rock to rock, cl
Louis and I climbed into the jungle next to a hotel and continued to climb as fast as we could. Louis was faster than me and kept yelling for me to hurry. He kept telling me to hurry up, he told me that he loved me and I replied the same. We got above the hotel but decided we wanted to get back to Debbie and Sam so we climbed onto a balcony of the hotel, ran through a maze of stairs, through the kitchen, out on a deck, down more stairs, eventually making it to the road. We ran down the road. The beach had been hammered…….all of the umbrellas, massage stands, beach chairs, many boats, etc. had been trashed. The water level was at the road and the water was full of debris. The boats in the harbor had lifted anchor and were heading out of the bay. Mass confusion, much yelling, people running every which way, cars had been moved by the wave, and motor cycles were knocked over. I ran to the building Debbie was in to check on her and found her getting a massage, unaware of the developme
We headed for the upper- most part
of the hotel complex where many other guests started to join us. We all stood
by a railing and watched things unfold. It became apparent that eventually we
were going to have to flee. I ran back to the room to get my backpack, some
snacks, and all of the water we had. I found a trail behind the lodge and kept
pointing to it saying that is where we are going to climb if things continue to
get worse. Three female employees were talking amongst themselves and talking
on cell phones in
In a scene right out of
After dark, we finally arrived at Wat Suan-Mok, The Garden of
Liberation, a modern forest Wat (Buddhist monastery)
near the city of
In the morning we had coffee at a
local restaurant then a community breakfast of rice, curry, and vegetables
within the monastery. I took my favorite photo of our trip of the monks walking
slowly head bowed and lining up for food with their bowls. After our meal we were
brought to sit respectfully next to the monks while they ate. The monks were
sitting by order of age with the eldest and most wisest
sitting near us. When they finished eating the eldest monk spoke to my family
in English. “Where are you from?” he asked. “
“ I am 72 years old“. “The world is normal now” he replied. “It is not such a bad time. Life is full of suffering. This is normal. Life is impermanent. We will all live and we will all die. Our bodies may die but our minds live on. Do not be worried about your lives or your possessions since they are all impermanent.” The monks were extremely calm and light-hearted while we of course were just the opposite. This was an incredibly poignant moment. Sitting with the monks in their beautiful saffron colored robes and absorbing their spirit and demeanor.
As we walked out of the monastery we noticed a sign stating that people should get to know the fundamental beliefs of their religion no matter what it is. People should respect other people’s religions.
We all jumped back in the pick-up
truck and took Debbie and the kids to the nearby airport. It was very hard
leaving my family. Debbie had heard several extremely sad stories while talking
with people at the airport. A young couple were trying
to get back to
We headed back to Phuket to get our luggage. About an hour down the road one
of our fellow passengers was talking on her cell phone and learned of another
wave due to hit in the afternoon. This was enough for me! I knocked on the car
window, asked the driver to pull over, and jumped out. I didn’t want to spend
another day wondering if the rumors were true or not. I didn’t want to spend
another day looking to see if the water was surging in around us. In fact Phuket did receive several quakes and after shocks that
day. I gave the French couple the keys to our safety deposit box and a
permission slip to remove the items. I also asked him to get my glasses out of
our room since I only had my prescription sun glasses with me. Our plan was to
meet them in
Three days later I flew back to Phuket to get our luggage. Four people had died on Nai Harn beach on Sunday and they had found another body the day I returned. I helped clean up the beach for awhile. It was like working in a garbage dump with the stench and debris everywhere. I cried as I worked, dumping shoes, bottles, and smaller debris into large plastic garbage bags. We pulled many tangled, bent umbrellas, lawn chairs, clothing, and frameworks from buildings out of the debris. Larger pieces of debris were thrown onto the road and later loaded into trucks. After an area was cleaned of debris and only sand was left a backhoe would dig down about four feet, pick up it’s contents, and slowly dump it out looking for bodies.
I talked with the staff at our
hotel. They all asked many times if I would come back to
My family had a very traumatic experience but we are so thankful and so lucky compared to the several hundred-thousand people in the world who are suffering from the largest natural disaster in modern history,
We would encourage people to
Subject: Re: Another Greeting from all of us....
Hi, Want you to know I got your message. We are
constantly checking the e mail since we are killing time in
like we will not be able to fly home until Jan. 1st. We got our passports back and all of
my money and glasses ended up in
I called Mark as soon as I could because his was the only number I could rememer in my head. When we fled we just had our bathing suits on and left everything.
We are all kind of traumatized and this will take along time to process. Louis and I saw people swimming and struggling when we fled. Louis and I are really lucky. We were in and out of the water and just so happened to be standing on the rocks when things changed so rapidly. We could have easily been stuck in the water. The Thai people are the best people in the world. It is the most helpful, safe, place you could imagine.
I will call when I get home and check email daily for updates. Our luggage is in Phuket and I might go there in the morning and try to return in the evening but they might send it here so I don't have to go. I will know more later today.
Thanks for the nice note. Love, Jeff
-------------- Original message --------------
Jeff, Debbie, Louis, and Sam;
Can't help but wonder how you are all doing. Can't imagine....or fathom what you've been through. Just want you four to know that we've all been thinking and praying for your safe return home. Quickly.....
I'll fly out as
soon as I can. I want to hear it all from you when you debrief everyone in
Terry tracked me
down at the PD. I've been in touch with Christy, who tracked Myrna down in
Louie and Sam.............I'm really glad your Dad is who he is. He knows his stuff. What a keen sense he has about him. Your parents are two great people who will protect you and get you home safely.
Give each other a big hug for me. I love you all. See you soon?!?!?!
PS Louie.........Will you be home for your Birthday?? If not, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOUIE!!!!!!
Can't believe that the big concern over Thanksgiving was getting the flu... Wow, if one only knew the future......
Hi everyone, just want to let you know we are fine but having
some difficulties in
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