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The Column icon The Column: Issue 23

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

In the face of despair
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

On 26 December 2004 an earthquake occurred just off the coast of Indonesia. The quake, the most powerful for 40 years, triggered a series of deadly waves, which fanned out across the Indian Ocean. At least 200,000 people in coastal areas from Somalia to Sumatra were killed and many millions left destitute.

One man shares his thoughts some few days after that terrible event:

The Sea is Coming In

I am 32 years old.

On Sunday morning I was asleep. There was a party at the hotel where I worked on Christmas day, and I was tired.

My sister and brother were outside when the first wave hit.
They ran, shouting 'The sea is coming in'. We got up and ran for our lives.

One of my neighbours is an old woman. We carried her with us. Since that day we've been living at a refugee camp in church.
This is what remains of my house. It's the second house from the sea, which is why a part of it still stands. Even now I cannot imagine how we survived.

A young girl lived in the house next to mine. We were good friends, growing up together. Unable to get away, she drowned. It's still hard to believe.

I have lived in this house since the day I was born. Now we are told we must relocate. It is no longer safe here.

I do not know where we will go. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. We've had such good times here, my parents, brother, sister and I.

Sundays were especially good as we had a large family lunch. But last Sunday is a day I would like to forget.

I do not know how to describe the feeling of loosing all that one possesses. We are not a very rich family. I work in a hotel. The salary is good but not lavish.

But we were happy.

We had everything we needed - cloths, a small television. It was only a four room house but very comfortable. It was home.

There were only 16 houses in my neighbourhood, all built close to the sea. We had a wonderful community, All of us knew each other and we lived and played together.

We never fought or envied our neighbours. I often played cricket on the beach with my friends in the neighbourhood. We always helped each other in times of need.

Now our community is destroyed. I don't think we can recreate this place anywhere else.

I have always lived by the sea. It was our friend and provider. But now it frightens me. Earlier, the sound of waves were like music to my ears. Now I have nightmares of waves crashing into my home and taking us away.

But despite everything, I still love the sea. I am an Islander - I can never run too far from the ocean.

A different place

I live far, far away from that place, and before long, talk is of other things. The chatter of the media slows to crawling pace. The news is said. It is easy to forget, to pretend all is well.

Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, these still need our help...

Donate to Oxfam International Support Oxfam International in their efforts to find lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.


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Column Background
This column is based on a news item first seen on the BBC website, January 2005.

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