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December 26th

Indonesia, December 29, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Piva Bell/Mercy Corps  </span>
    A huge government-owned electricity-generating ship that was thrown inland by the tsunami stands as a memorial to the victims and survivors of that disaster, which happened five years ago this month. Photo: Piva Bell/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Piva Bell/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Local percussionists play traditional music to help raise Aceh's spirits. Photo: Piva Bell/Mercy Corps

Five years have been passed by, and the people of Aceh still can’t forget what happened to them on this same date, December 26th. For the survivors there are such painful memories of the tsunami's fury, of loved ones lost and some of the most horrible things they have ever seen. Somehow, it makes people remember how mortal they are, how fragile they are when nature lashes out. And for the religious people of Aceh, they found that their faith was the only place to run, to seek peacefulness and security by getting even closer to God.

So on December 26, 2009, most tsunami survivors chose to gather with their families at home and pray for their relatives who already passed away, commemorating them. Others chose to participate in mass prayers to ease their pain, gathering together on or around a huge ship that the tsunami washed inland. This ship belongs to the government and was used to produce electricity. When the tsunami hit, it was swept across the land by the waves and, on its way, it destroyed dozens of houses, causing a lot of damage and claiming many victims. Although this ship can still produce electricity, it has not been returned back to the sea, instead becoming the main monument of the tsunami here in Aceh.

Also in commemoration of what happened here five years ago, the history of Aceh was also told at the boat by a local well-known storyteller, Muda Balia — nonstop for 26 hours. That number was chosen because the tsunami happened in December 26.

From December 17-26, there was exhibition at the Tsunami Museum here in Aceh. It chronicled Aceh's before tsunami and after the tsunami, while putting particular focus on the reconstruction and rehabilitation process over the last five years. As visitors compared what Aceh used to look like, sadness was obviously seen on their faces. But, when they saw the pictures of rehabilitation and reconstruction that has been done in Aceh, they looked enthusiastic that now Aceh looked even better than before.

There were also art performances around Aceh: traditional dances, poetic readings, songs and percussion. People were not only entertained, bt also energized to continue their lives with high, positive spirits.

The life of Aceh's people is back to normal, and they are empowered to be even more steadfast and optimistic in facing the year ahead.