The tsunami, told by Helena

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uppladdat: 2006-01-05
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The Tsunami. The 26th of December 2004.

I remember some parts just like it was yesterday while some parts are more cloudy. I will tell this story with the things I’ve been told later on. I still have pictures before my eyes and I will try to describe that too. It’s hard for me to write about this, it’s just like reliving it again. It’s one thing to talk about it because it doesn’t feel real, it’s just words coming out of your mouth and you describe it superficial. When you write it you have to remember it in detail and you tell it to yourself and se the pictures and everything, but I will try. One thing that I can’t get out of my head is that the night before, the 25th, my friend from London named Lily had said “this is a TOO good Christmas eve, something is going to happen, haha”, and unfortunately she was right, so right…
Me and my family (mom and dad) were at Sri Lanka in a little town called Unawatuna, just by the coast. We were staying at the hotel UBR, Unawatuna Beach Resort, that practically laid on the beach around 10 meters from the sea. It was our last day in Unawatuna because we were going to Negombo that is really near Colombo and we were going to take a flight from Colombo early in the morning the next day to go to Bangkok in Thailand. Since it was my last day at UBR I decided to have a major breakfast. I ate 10 pancakes and mom were sitting and waiting for me while dad went up packing our suitcases so they got delayed because they were going out snorkeling. Anyway, after breakfast we went up to change to our bathing clothes and so on. When we were finished me and my mom were going to get some towels at the pool while dad were going down to the beach to take some sun chairs. At the pool I met my friend Tharaka (Thara) and I stayed there talking with him while mom went to dad. Since they were going out snorkeling and I didn’t want to come with them I was just going to lay on the beach.
Dad was sitting on a sun chair and mom was standing at the entrance of the beach a bit further away. Then suddenly there was a high wave and dad thought “oh, a high wave” – nothing special. Then he jumped up from the sun chair he was sitting on, pulling up our two little bags from the ground otherwise they would have been wet. He slowly started to walk against mom and they both wondered what was going on. Then there was a third wave that took some of the sun chairs out into the sea. Then they started to run a little bit away and dad said “it’s enough” but my mom sees an even higher wave and just shouts “RUN!”.
I was talking to Thara at the pool that lay about 20 meters from the beach. I was going to go down to the beach when I saw my parents come running. They were screaming something to me that I couldn’t hear and then Thara came and stood beside me and I remember asking him “what the hell is happening?”. We stood there and then we saw water coming in and breaking down the little fence and going high. My only thought then was that it were only very high flood. Then he grabbed my arm and pulled me with him screaming “run Helena, run!”. Of course I didn’t get what was going on and stopped to wait for my parents. Thara was a bit ahead of me, waving and shouting to me so that I should follow him. Now, after all this, he has told us that he was trying to get me on a local bus to Colombo and I’m glad I didn’t follow because then I certainly would have been separated from my parents. As I was running at this small road with the hotel in my back and people screaming and cars driving as fast as they can I looked back and saw my parents running a bit behind me and I can still see my mom trying to stop a minivan in panic but of course they didn’t stop. All the time I had a thought in my head that was saying “if I keep on running forward I’ll be fine, the water is behind me”. Then suddenly I stop because I saw the water coming beside me and in front of me. I just stood there, paralyzed, and a big white plastic bucket and a orange water jug came and hit one of my legs as I could feel water against my legs. I started screaming, not words or anything, just a high sound of panic and I couldn’t move. At that point I had no idea where neither Thara nor my parents were and I didn’t know what I was going to do, I thought I was going to die. That I was going to come home, if I even did come home, in a coffin. Now I could feel the water a bit under my knees. I just felt so defenseless, I couldn’t do anything but standing there and wait for the water to bury me, to sweep me away, to kill me.
After that everything happened very quickly. Somebody pulled me in my arm as I stood there screaming which I noticed later on was my dad. He pushed me up on a little fence, about one meter from the ground, and told me to climb. In front of me I had a big white wall and when I looked up it was like a balcony or a porch or something like that. I grabbed a small pillar and heaved me up so that I could swing my leg up and then climb up totally. I just had two little problems; I was in panic and I had a sarong. A sarong is like a thin skirt, often a long one, that you tie around your hip. And because of my sarong I couldn’t swing up my leg. As you might know that when you panic you can’t think so I just tried to break through it, but of course that didn’t work. After a couple of seconds, but it seemed like minutes, I pulled it up and put my knee on a roof beside me and rolled over the rail and almost landed at a cactus. Mom was still standing on the ground and had water up to her thighs and dad that were standing on the fence had had water up to his knees before getting up on the fence. A lot of stuff hit mom under water while she was standing there and we counted up to eighteen bruises on ONE leg. As mom and dad were climbing up to the “balcony” I leaned against the wall of the building and started to cry. I could hardly stand up ‘cause I was shaking so much and I thought that the water was coming even higher and that it would come up to us and that we would die. I looked around and saw cars lying up and down, people sticking to palms, broken walls and I thought I still could hear the horrible sound of water coming and breaking everything in it’s way.
At that “balcony” it was two guys from the reception on our hotel, my family and I, the women who lived there and my friend Charith were walking at the roof beside me. One of the guys from the reception, he was from India, took me with him to see if there was another floor that we could go up to – but there wasn’t. So we went back and I sat down on the floor because I thought I was going to collapse. Before I sat down I remember this little dog chained to a steel thing 2 or 3 decimeters from the ground and it swam around in the water and barked loud and in panic and I started to cry over that too. Then we saw that the water was going away and people were able to walk on the streets again. So we started to go down a little staircase at the backyard and the other guy from the reception unchained the dog and put it on a roof that was floating. Dad went first and then me and just before I started to walk down Charith came and almost hugged me, asking me if I was okay. Then I started to walk down. I didn’t have any shoes and it laid all kinds of stuff on the ground and then I stepped on a broken glass-piece and I said that I wasn’t going to go there, that I was going back. Then the guy from India took me in his arms and carried me out on the road (he had shoes) and then he handed me over to my dad. Dad carried me a bit and then I told him that I could walk by myself so he put me down. I was walking really quickly on the wet road and dad was right behind me and mom was a bit after. I walked by ...

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