One story from the night of the tsunami

Indonesia

December 14, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sara Velasquez/Mercy Corps  </span>
    An example of what the earthquake and tsunami did to houses and other buildings in the Mentawai Islands. Photo: Sara Velasquez/Mercy Corps

Note: this story comes from a tsunami survivor in the Mentawai Islands, where I am currently on an emergency assignment with the Indonesia Response Team. She asked me to share her account of what happened the night of the disaster.

It's past 9 P.M. on a Monday evening. The rain is pouring down hard, and I'm getting the kids ready for bed. It's been a long day. We start our days at 5 A.M. here to make the most of the light hours.

My daughter Dewi is only five years old. She’s been with her friends Erniwati and Indri all day — playing with their dolls, running around in their bare feet and teasing the dogs in the village.

Duodi is only nine months old. He is filling out well. His little arms and legs are getting pudgy. He likes to smile, and his toothless grin is infectious. He’s at the fun stage when babies start to mimic sounds and expressions. Dewi loves making faces at him, and delights in making him laugh. He thinks it’s pretty funny too.

The earthquake happens, and the rain is pouring. It is a moonless night, and so it's pitch black outside. The children have just fallen asleep and earthquakes happen all the time. I decide to just let them sleep.

Next thing I know, it's like being inside a washing machine. I don't know which way is up. All the things that matter the most in my world are all mixed up and tumbling around.

My husband and I start to look for our children. It's only when the dawn comes that we find Dewi, limp like a doll in a tree. We still haven't found Duodi.

It has now been almost two months since the tsunami, and sometimes when I walk around, I forget that the tsunami happened at night — in the pitch black of a new moon.

Time has passed but there is still healing to do. There are still rebuilding to do. There are still many things to share.