SURVIVOR GUILT - reflections of GENE KIM and FAYE WACHSSURVIVOR GUILT
An interview with Gene Kim and Faye Wachs on NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO "AMERCIAN WEEKEND"
As the one year anniversary of the TSUNAMI HAS PASSED – so many people around the world are dealing with the memories in their own way. Some have returned to the beaches where they encountered and survived (and sometimes lost) from the tsunami. And the emotion varies with what people experienced – whether they were so involved that they were wet and battered by being in the middle of the waves or whether they were so near that they were witnesses – but spared physical pain.
I have tried to describe these two different experiences by labling them as either “getting wet” or “getting splashed.” The first are those survivors that found themselves running from the water – yet getting caught up in the water – and surviving. Getting “splashed” indicates those who saw it – got away from it – feared it and were affected for days around the event – but only suffered emotionally from the event.
People “getting wet” have told me they often are still dealing with trauma in so many different ways. They have nightmares – fear of water – and can’t stop thinking about images and feelings they dealt with. And of course, while over 250,000 died – millions also received physical impacts that they are still dealing with.
For those that were “splashed” – there is another kind of emotion that they – we – feel. Recently – National Public Radio Weekend America host Barbara Bogaev talked to one couple who was witness to the Tsunami.
Her interview recognizes some of the emotions that many “splashed” people feel. Thoughout the last year – we are asked so many questions – from well minded individuals about how we are “copying” with what we saw.
I have typed out a transcript of some of the radio interview. In particular – the questions of “survivor guilt” and “how much do you talk about this?” and how we have coped in the last year resonated well with me. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Note – the original story of LISTEN to the FULL INTERVIEW below at:
It is featured in HOUR TWO under the heading: Tsunami Anniversary
INTERVIEWER: December 26th marks a haunting anniversary for Gene Kim and his wife Faye Wachs. It is one year to the day, that Kim and Wachs were scuba diving in Thailand when the tsunami hit. Weekend America host Barbara Bogaev talks to the couple about their year. Gene Kim told us the story last year, when they returned…
For you Faye – how has this year progressed in terms of processing?
FAYE WACHS: In some ways, it is like so many emotions and images…come at your so quickly that you still don’t really get a chance to process them…I was talking with someone earlier today…and they were asking me what the hardest to thing to see was…and at first I said, of course, the piles of bodies….and then no – it was hard to see people looking for their children and not being able to find them…and then no – it was also hard to come in to the dock and see people crying over the bodies….and it was even hard to go to the airport and see them sitting in the corner by themselves sobbing and you knew they had left someone behind…
GENE: We actually have not had that many conversations about this thing…we have not really talked about it… part of it acknowledges that we have both moved on from the event in terms of coming to terms emotionally with what it means in our own lives… that we have come away with our lives in tact…
FAYE WACHS: We have told the story so many times to so many different people that that is also very therapeutic…because I am usally there when he is telling the story and he is there when I am telling the story – and we sort of take turns – and so we have got to hear what they other is feeling from these third party contacts…
INTERVIEWER: What kind of contact have you had with people you have got to know while you were waiting…that you were helping with recovery…
GENE: Well, strangely enough, almost none.
FAYE WACHS: To me, it is more the nature of the event…it was a crazy hectic couple of days where people were forced to operate in circumstances that they would not normally operate in….then you go back to your normal regular life. One thing that was great that came out of the event was that with us being on the news – we were getting emails and phone calls from people I went to elementary school with…junior high…highschool, college…Hebrew school – that I had not talked to in years and it was really fantastic to catch up and find out what had happened with those people – and I have actually stayed in contact more with friends I have recontacted me because of the Tsunami then with the people that we had met in this incredible moment of tragedy.
INTERVIEW: People talk about survivor guilt. How have you experienced that?
FAYE WACHS: One of my friends has given me a reality check on that. I was telling her that I did not really feel like a survivor. Because we didn’t get hurt at all. We got scratches and bumps and bruises. And some mosquito bites. But nothing serious. And we were both ok. And kind of looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you make it SURVIVED UNSCATHED.’ That was sort of the reality check I needed…I think it has actually led to feelings of euphoria…I go outside and it is a beautiful day and I appreciate it more…because I am thinking, WOW – the sky is blue..the birds are singing… I am alive and if things had gone otherwise, it might not be. And so I think it has actually made me feel really good about my life
(end of excerpt)