Sunday, March 20, 2005
IOCC Memo from the Field – March 16, 2005
IOCC Chief Operating Officer Colin McGinnis recently traveled to the island of Sumatra, where 170,000 people perished from the tsunami, as part of a humanitarian team to further assess the needs there and help plan a long-term response.
What follows is an entry from his journal while he was there.
Late one night, we returned to the guest house where we were staying, and I went into the kitchen for a drink of water. A woman who had been working there as a housekeeper since the tsunami told me her story:
“It was morning when the earthquake struck, and we all ran out of our homes out of fear they would fall. As things settled down, we returned to our houses. I was on the second floor of my house when I saw the wave, as big as a mountain, coming toward me.
“My husband was not there. I tied my 8-year-old son to my back with ropes and grabbed my 4-year-old son in my arms. When the wave hit my house, it smashed everything and my son was stripped from my back. I heard his cries, but I could not reach him.
“I was thrown and bounced by the water for almost two miles, slammed against floating cars and debris, and when I came to rest, I was in the yard of a small house. I looked down and realized that my son, whom I had been holding tight all this time, was limp and lifeless – he had drowned. I carried him, walking, with no direction, not knowing what to do, and ran into a cousin who joined me in my journey.
“A Red Cross truck came by, and they asked me for my son’s body, to bury him. I said no. A military rescue team came by to ask the same thing, and I told them no. I could not let him go to strangers. That night, my cousin helped me bury him in a small cemetery, surrounded by others with lamps and candles who were burying their own loved ones.
“A week later, my husband saw my picture flicker by on a TV report from the refugee camp where I was living. Now we are together again and trying to figure out how he can get back to work as a fisherman, since he lost his boat. It is very painful, but at least we are left with each other; with help, we will rebuild our lives.”
Your generous support has made it possible for IOCC to respond to the needs of this woman and so many others in the tsunami-affected countries – and beyond.
Currently, IOCC and its partners are delivering medicine boxes to Indonesia, each with enough medical supplies for 1,000 adults and children for up to three months; supplying food and other goods to people made homeless by the tsunami and living in camps on the east coast of Sumatra; and shipping $1.1 million in multi-vitamins to Sri Lanka, enough to provide 53,000 adults with a daily dose for a month.