Friday, December 31, 2004

FIRST HAND STORY: Patrick Green and Becky Johnson

Someone had to be in at least one elevator when the wave struck. These were the unlucky ones.

“the elevator thrust downward and the doors burst open, revealing a raging river inside the hotel. Dirty water, waist-deep and rising, gushed into the elevator…”

FIRST HAND STORY: Patrick Green and Becky Johnson
For Patrick Green, the terrifying wave came in a trickle.

He and friend Becky Johnson were in a hotel elevator, on their way to the beach, where they planned to get one last hour of Thai sun before heading to the airport.

Outside, a tsunami had crushed the shore, but in the elevator, the only sign that something was wrong came when the lights flickered and water began seeping through the doors. "Inhuman, indescribable" screams then pierced the walls, he recalled Friday.

The cause was revealed when the elevator thrust downward and the doors burst open, revealing a raging river inside the hotel. Dirty water, waist-deep and rising, gushed into the elevator. He and Johnson swam to a door. Outside, people, cars, tables and trees floated by.

They kept swimming and found the structure that would save them: a jungle gym in a nearby play area. They pulled a few other people onto it, including a woman who clung fiercely to her baby as she looked for her 5-year-old boy. They were later reunited.

Green and Johnson are among thousands of Americans caught in the tsunami devastation -- and among the many who have been recounting their ordeals in interviews and in e-mails home this week. Fourteen Americans are confirmed dead in the disaster.

After the water calmed, Green and Johnson swam 150 yards to the hotel's main entrance. They took stairs to the building's roof, where they spent the rest of the day taking pictures and listening to shrieks warning of more waves that never came.

"It was ugly and awful. There are some images I will never forget, and some that I might never acknowledge again," Green said. "I am left with an immense respect for the power of nature."
Green and Johnson, both 28 and Pacific Northwest natives, are friends and first-year teachers at Singapore American School.

As reported on January 1, 2005 , BY JANIE McCAULEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, appearing in the Detroit Free Press at: http://www.freep.com/news/nw/missing-bar11e_20050101.htm