It is not uncommon of me not to hear from my friend Paul for stretches of time. He and I met in college and have stayed close friends, also living together in Manhattan for a while. Last year, he moved to Hong Kong and we dont keep in touch as much as we used to. When the Tsunami hit I didnt really think of checking up on him since I figured it was safe.
And just now, I learned that he was actually on the beach in Phuket when the Tsunami hit!! He and his girlfriend barely escaped with their lives, only through a series of miracles.
One of the difficult things for me during all the news stories about this has been how to make this all real. To hear 150,000 people died does not make it real and I have no way of feeling connected to the event. It seems too much like an abstraction.
Hearing that one of my closest friends barely escaped and hearing his story left me with a renewed sense of helplessnes but also gave me a small glimpse of the enormous and inhuman tragedy which just occured.
You cant take the story of two survivors and multiply it by thousands. You just can't. We were not meant for this. Our hearts would explode. Still, this has all really brought it home for me. finally.
Here's an excerpt:
it was hard to think to do anything. not that we could, except just hold tight and try to stay upright and not get sucked into the muck. and the waters were rising faster, we floating in it until our heads hit the ceiling, and we had 8 inches of air to breathe like the movies. it was getting darker, and i then started telling my girlfriend and myself, we're going to die here, we're going to die here. as if preparing ourselves for the inevitable as the waters were inching higher. i was trying to remember the orientation of where the glass doors had been so we could dive under the waters and try to get out. and then we were still there at 8 inches to the ceiling for what seemed a small eternity.
we limped up to the road, and then we could hear the screaming and wailing of people that had just made it, had just lost loved ones, were just starting to realize what had happened, and now were watching as other waves were approaching. small clumps of people by the road now started to panic and run up into the hills. we followed, barefoot, in our underwear, feeling like aboriginal natives running into the jungle. i could hardly put weight on my leg, and the blood was coming down in small spurts as my flesh split from my tourniquets with the movement.
You can read more here under "Personal Account" and also see photos of his hospital stay.