On our taxi ride into the city this morning to the airport our driver spoke to us about his experience of the 2004 tsunami that hit Banda Aceh and brought destruction and devastation. His story was remarkable. He told us how his son, then 4 years old, was swept away from his grasp by the rushing waters, as he tried to hold desperately on to his daughter and climb a mango tree at the same time. Having no other choice but to climb to safety, the man made sure his daughter and wife were safe on the second floor of a nearby building before climbing down to find his son. For two hours he searched, until finally he came upon his son on the second floor of building. Luckily a mystery hero saw the boy and grabbed him, placing up high enough to be out of the water. Not your idea of a good gift? The tsunami happened on this man’s birthday.
Feeling unbelievably lucky, this man was ever so willing to share his personal story about his family. As he told the story we passed a mass grave from the tsunami where he told us about 150,000 people were laid to rest. Bits of reminders are left over from the giant wave. A massive electricity barge has washed 4 kilometers inland from the harbor. In another area, a fishing boat has come to rest on top of a small house. The man spoke of these attractions with a hint of pride in his voice. Surviving the tsunami wave is part of his life, a part of the culture here and a part of the landscape. I think it is important to share these stories and to recognize that this region has been changed forever.