SURVIVING PARENTS - and the story of a daughter who did not - Leanne CoxRead the story of Leanne Cox – and 3 heartfelt blog postings by her parents as they search for their missing daughter. The posts by Leanne’s mother were originally posted on http://www.tsunamistories.net and reposted by Rick Von Feldt on www.phukettsunami.blogspot.com.
The Asian tsunami on 26 December 2004 claimed the lives of 149 people who are British citizens. Graduate Leanne Cox, 23, from Hartlepool, arrived in Thailand on Christmas Eve and was staying at a guesthouse with a friend when the disaster devastated the area. She was on a working and backpacking trip to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.
Miss Cox and her friend were in their room, having returned from breakfast when the waves hit. Her friend survived.
In a eulogy read to the mass inquest her father Alan and mother Jean Dogan said Leanne had "grown into a young woman who had got the priorities of her life right. She knew the value of true friendship, true love and of her family".
It added: "You are unique Leanne and irreplaceable. The loss of you has shattered our lives and nothing in our world will ever be the same again."
MESSAGE FROM FATHER, ALAN COX ON January 7, 2005:
To our family what has happened is over-powering. And although now our thoughts are only with our precious Leanne we want to say how sorry we are for everyone who has lost some-one and for all those who are suffering.
This tragedy was not caused by man's hatred of man, was not something we did to ourselves, but by our own world rising up against us and we believe that is why it touchs us all.
There is something we read once which says
'And when the light of reason fails
And fires burn the sea
Now in this age of confusion
I have need of your company'
We hope this web-site brings some comfort and a way to share. Miracles do happen and for that our hearts will be eternally hopeful.
Posted By Jean - Leanne's mum – January 22, 2005
Your story of that day Leanne is not one I can write. I was not there with you. It is not one you can write. You have not come home to tell it. But I hope one day one of your friends, who shared that terrible time, will write their story and that in their story you will play a big part. You were such a big part of everyone’s life who ever knew you.
What I can write about is my journey to find you. I was treated with such kindness and tenderness by everyone I met. They knew then I suppose what I am still finding difficult to begin to accept weeks later. But at that time, and in that place, I had only a desperate longing to be near you.
Your Uncle Mike and I arrived in Phuket about seven in the evening. It was New Year’s Day. Our plane had been somewhere over Hungary I think when we passed from one year into another. The pilot had announced it over the tannoy but apart from one couple who silently toasted each other, there were no celebrations. What thoughts everyone on that plane were locked into I have no idea, but they were certainly not joyful.
When we arrived at Phuket airport the British Embassy staff had set up a desk to meet families such as ours. A nice young man, Alan he was called (your life seems to have a lot of Alan’s in it) took me to one side. He looked at your picture on the missing poster we’d made for you and I saw the tears come into his eyes. ‘She’s very lovely’ he said and took my hand and, not for the last time in Thailand, I felt overwhelmed by the concern on the face of a complete stranger. Alan was working the airport shift he explained and as soon as he finished he would take your details back to the Embassy Headquarters and let them know that I had arrived and that once again they would go through the lists of people that they had identified and those that were in the hospitals. That there was nothing more I could do and that I should try and get some rest and report to the British Consul first thing in the morning. Alan arranged for a driver to take us from the airport to a hotel. I must admit I was a bit afraid to look out of the car window at first because of some of the reports back home. I don’t know what I expected to see but Phuket town look quite normal, I suppose we were away from the beach areas. I say quite normal apart that that is for an eerie lack of people.
I rang home when I got to the hotel to let Dad and Lisa know that Mike and I had arrived safely and tell them what was happening. Dad had been contacted by Jodie and Peter who were also in Phuket looking for Peter’s brother Ross, who had apparently been with you all on Christmas Day. I rang Jodie and arranged to meet them the next morning, Sunday, at eight ‘o’ clock.
The British Consul headquarters had been set up at a place called ‘The Courtyard’ some distance out of the main town centre. It was a shopping centre, it looked very new, all the shops were closed but there was a small café where you could get a drink. At eight ‘o’ clock all the embassy staff were having their daily meeting so we sat waiting and found Jodie and Peter.
When the meeting had finished, a woman called Kate – it is after this point that I stop remembering everyone’s names - took me and Mike onto the terrace of the restaurant and slowly and carefully told me that they had very little hope of finding anyone else alive on Phi Phi Island, that it had been so badly devastated, that they had checked again all their lists and that you, angel, were still missing. They left me there, Mike and Kate, on my own for a little time. I think so that what I had been told could sink in. I remember looking at the trees and flowers from that high veranda and I could feel the heat even at that time of the day. It was very quiet and I looked at the clock and thought, this time last week you had maybe just finished breakfast and were walking back to the your Guest House. I could see you walking down the path, chatting away.
People came around me. Kate, Mike, an American counsellor who stared into my eyes and a man who just came and held my hand and stared at the floor. There was just nothing to say.
After a time they wanted Peter and I to go to the City Hall in Phuket to file our missing person’s reports and give DNA samples. The Embassy driver took us. Here, away from the peace of the Courtyard, everything was full of activity. All the embassies had set up centres, there were crowds of people, all nationalities, and there was that terrible, sad wall of posters, that wall that I have since learnt has been called the wall of despair. Peter and I were hurried through the crowds, passed the journalists, passed the people handing out water, passed the medical centres into a building and upstairs into a long room. Here down both sides of the room and down the centre were trestle tables; flags showing which country the table belonged to. People behind the desks, mountains of paper. Peter and I were guided, pushed through the crowds to the British desk ‘Are you together?’ ‘No – we each need a form’. ‘Fill this in’. Another of those forms, the same as at the airport, a missing person report form. Name? Date of Birth? Distinguishing marks? Passport number? What was she wearing? Where was she last seen? My name. Are you the next of kin? What relationship are you? Mother. I’m her mother. I think I was screaming inside. And sad, tired eyes would look at the form and then at me then wish themselves anywhere away from there.
Some woman put her arm around me and with Peter on the other side we went to one of the medical centres to give our DNA samples. Hair, nails, mouth swabs, another form. More faces, devoid of anything I felt but horror for what had happened but nothing I realised later to the faces I still had to see. The woman with her arm round me was crying now. Peter and I were just held onto each other, acting on some other plane. We put our posters on that wall there for Ross and you. I kissed your picture. We left for Krabi.
I cannot write more now my darling but I will continue my story soon.
Sleep tight. You are, you always have been and you always will be my precious little daughter.
With love Mum xxx
Posted By Jean - Leanne's mum – February 3, 2005
I don’t know if you were ever in Phuket. Your last email to me on the Thursday before Christmas just mentions that you had arrived in Krabi so I’m not sure from which town you eventually got the ferry to Koh Phi Phi on Christmas Eve. But Krabi is where they took the majority of people they brought off that island and so it was to Krabi that the Embassy now took us.
The drive from Phuket to Krabi takes about two and a half hours. I don’t remember speaking. I don’t remember Peter speaking. I did look at his face. It was just frozen. Mine must have looked the same. We sat either side of Jodie in the back of that car lost in our own tragedy. It is impossible to describe what I was feeling. I just kept thinking that this wasn’t happening, that somewhere you were there. That you were lost in Krabi and that you had just been missed and that I would see you in the street. I searched everybody’s face as we drove into that town. You weren’t there.
It took us sometime to find Krabi’s City Hall, a much smaller building than in Phuket, and as we stepped from the car it was like a huge thick cloud wrapped itself around us. You could almost choke on the sadness. No embassies here. No medical centres. No journalists. I don’t remember seeing any other Europeans, just lots of Thai people standing in long queues. I saw Mike stumble and start to cry. I think it was fear at what was to come and what he had to do.
Outside of the main entrance there were two boards with pictures of bodies. Like there had been on the Internet. I’d never looked at them there though, even though Lisa had asked me to before I left. She thought it would help prepare me for what I might have to face. But between Mike and I it had been unspoken, he knew I could not bear to look at those pictures. And so your poor Uncle Mike and Jodie searched for you and Ross while Peter and I went into the building.
The Embassy in Phuket had told us to register you and Ross as missing persons again in Krabi but no one at the City Hall could speak much English. All that we were told was that we should go to the Chinese Temple where – I think everyone knows what the Temple was being used for. I don’t know how I was still standing. I just knew I had to do everything to try and find you and it was as if some force had taken me over and was moving me along. As we came out of the City Hall I looked at the main doors, they were covered with photographs. So many of them. It would have been disrespectful to cover anybody’s picture so Peter and I made a space at the bottom of one of the doors where we could put the posters of you and Ross next to each other.
We had to park some distance from the Chinese Temple. Outside of the main entrance white canopies had been erected. Here there were many more boards of photographs. I don’t know how many altogether. I sat on a grass verge in the middle of the road while Mike, Peter and Jodie walked up and down those aisles. Behind the boards were a number of tables. I think people were reporting missing people, looking at more pictures. It all seemed to be desperate. I couldn’t actually see the temple from where I was sitting; I hoped it was very beautiful. Then a party of people, I don’t know which nationality they were, were escorted in lines through the gates into the temple grounds. Like prisoners, I thought, being lead into a concentration camp. I suppose in a way they were, they were going into another kind of hell.
After a time a young Thai man, who spoke perfect English because he had been brought up in America, organised for Peter and I to go to a hotel on the outskirts of town to give our DNA again. It was a lovely hotel. The grounds very lush and tropical. The same forms, the same routine, the same kindness and concern. The same wish for good luck in our search. And then I would yo-yo again between despair and hope. The despair of organised Phuket and the hope of chaotic Krabi where I just wanted you to be.
A young girl, she couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen, took your picture and frantically started looking through this book that seemed to register details of people they had found. Descriptions of clothing, jewellery, height, weight, sex, any distinguishing marks. The book listed from 457 to 550. I read everyone. You. weren’t there. Then our American/Thai guide phoned his friend at Krabi hospital. I spoke to her, she knew of you because Lindsey had never stopped asking for you, had never stopped looking for you while she was in that hospital.
Then back to the Chinese Temple. Just keep moving. More questions, more forms, one of the forensic team came out and spoke to me, about your clothing, about your ring, Alen’s ring with it’s loving message. I could tell everyone else, Mike, Jodie, Peter, they had had enough. Peter looked ill. But I had to do it Leanne; I had to go to the hospital. I had to know that I had done everything I could in Krabi before we left. So off we went, and while the others waited for me, I filled in another form, left another picture. I was begging them to produce a miracle.
And then we settled back into the car for that long drive back to Phuket. You were not in any of the hospitals, you were not on any of those boards, and I knew that I had to see this journey to the end, that I had to get onto Phi Phi Island.
Let’s rest now my darling,snuggled in the back of that car.
I love you