Thailand was not high on my list of vacation destinations. I wasn’t against the idea; it had just never crossed my mind, that’s all. And now, Jerry’s company wanted him to go to the island of Phuket for a big training seminar; 6 days and 5 nights in a luxury hotel at the beach. The good news? He could bring his family. The bad news? The timing was terrible……Christmas. We had never spent Christmas away from our Colorado Rockies. The opportunity for a free vacation, and the possibility of extending it a few days seemed like the chance of a lifetime. But Thailand? Where is Thailand anyway?
Being geographically-challenged gave my 13-year old son Jeremy frequent occasion to make use of his treasured world globe. He was happy to point out all of the countries in Asia with all of its existing islands and surrounding oceans.
The sandy-white beach at Khao Lak is amazing. I was kind of mad at Jerry for getting a hotel so far off the waterfront when he could have booked any room he wanted. He decided it would be a lot more convenient to stay at the main hotel where the conference was being held. That meant that the kids and I had to walk downhill, about 6 blocks to the beach. Jerry mentioned there was no extra charge for this healthy amenity provided by our hotel.
On this day, the day after Christmas, we got off to a late start. We were to meet Jerry at the hotel’s Viewpoint Restaurant for a late breakfast, and then head to the beach while he attended his afternoon sessions. I came down to get a table while Jeremy and Susan lingered a few minutes behind.
I was mesmerized by the view that this natural paradise offered. I began watching a large sailboat through my binoculars when I noticed a white outline on the horizon. It was bizarre…too low to be clouds and too dense to be water. It appeared to be moving closer. The vessel made an abrupt turn and headed straight for the beach. A man ran out from the kitchen and out onto the deck yelling: TSUNAMI!!!!!! But his voice was overcome by the train-like blast coming from the water. The swelling of the ocean was heightened by a mammoth wave. Suddenly the white mass appeared directly behind the sailboat and swallowed it whole.
By now, everyone in the restaurant was at the window looking and pointing, some were searching for friends and relatives that had previously set out to reserve their favorite sunbathing spot. The white wall foraged forward, hunting its prey. With hurricane force it managed to barge onto the beach and propel its way past hotels, down streets, thrusting its momentous weight forward…..its watery wings scooping up everything in sight.
People were knocked off their feet and demolished like sand castles in a high tide, they smashed into buildings, wrapped around trees……they were crushed by the vastness of the water. Most were rendered helpless to swim or to save themselves, they looked like miniature wooden dolls caught in a giant whirlpool, only these dolls had once been human beings, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and uncles, teachers and doctors. Now……. they were lifeless casualties.
Jeremy came running to the crowded spot at the window: “Mom, what’s happening, what’s going on?” I turned and put my trembling hands on his shoulders. I began a major meltdown, the tears began to form and then I realized Susan was not with him.
“WHERE’S SUSAN?????” I screamed…I panicked!
“Mom, she’s right there!” He turned and pointed to my precious daughter who was shoving her way to the front of the crowd for a firsthand look at the horrific phenomena.
I let go and pushed my way to reclaim Susan, I reached around an elderly woman and pulled her to my chest. “Oh Susan, Susan……” I took her back to where I left Jeremy and found him waiting with Jerry. I gathered them all together and cried hysterically.
At the point that I had seen Jeremy without his sister, I realized that we would have been right in the middle of that chaos had we not slept in this particular morning. Jerry held me and tried to calm me down. My breathing was shallow, my nose a snotty mess and I sobbed, “My God, my God……………why?”
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