Saturday, December 26, 2009


December 26, 2009


It is the end of the day. Of just another day to most. But for a few thousand people – perhaps even ten thousand people around the world, this day is not just an ordinary day. For many of us, we are taking the day to mourn losses of family or friends. And at the same time, we are also celebrating our lives. Both in the same day. Both on the anniversary of when a tsunami struck in southeast and south Asia in 2004.

It is a confusing day for many people. For those in the region, it is a day of walking silently to the water. To offer prayers and thoughts and sadness and thanks – perhaps all in one breath – to something or someone that we felt responsible for the day.

For a small group of us, not living in or traveling anymore to Asia, it becomes a day of mixed emotion. How do we think about the day? How do we commemorate.

For the last four years, I have made it a point to tell people about my day. I have spent the day, sometimes alone, thinking about that fateful day in 2004. I spent time writing emails to other survivors. Some were new friends made through the website. Others were people who literally stood side by side with me – watching the waves come and go – taking life with it each time – five years ago.

But today was the five year anniversary. Should I do something special? Should I stay home and mourn? Should I send out an email to friends and family, reminding them of the day, lest they forget?

But not today. Not on the five year anniversary. From this day on, it becomes a personal day for many of us. Today, instead of CNN talking about tsunami anniversaries, they moved on to other tragedies – or perhaps avoided tragedies of a potential terrorist aboard a plane from Amsterdam to the Detroit. But that is a good thing. It is time to move on – so that this day is not longer a press day – and instead, becomes an intimate reminder, based upon what each individual needs the day to be!

In years past, I have reserved this day after Christmas as a reflection day. I would mark the time of the earthquake. The time of the first wave. And then of the second, even more deadly wave. I would read through my journals of the day. I would look at the pictures of devastation. I would read all of the survivor stories at the website

It was a day to reflect. And wonder. And mourn. And just be in the moment.

But this year, a confusing activity happened. A long lost friend invited me out for beers and dinner. I had not seen him in a long time, and he was in the middle of a career change.

Should I politely decline, by telling him it was my “memory day?”

But a voice in side of me, told me it was more important to be in the now – and to move on. I want to preserve the memories of the day. But a simple anniversary – a day marking an event – should not be a deciding factor to living the more important day.

I spend the evening today, having beers, listening to his strife of career change. I tried to be as present as possible. A few times, a fleeting thought of, “well, you think you had it bad – you should feel the mourning of a few people around the world…”

But I didn’t.

I was tempted a few times to casually work the topic into the discussion: “And oh, yeah, by the way, do you know what I am commemorating today?”

But over the years, I have realized that that question or comment leads very quickly into a deadend discussion.

“Oh, someone might comment. That is right. How do you feel?” Or they might ask, “Wow – are you ok?”

But no answer can really help the situation. Nor will it make them or you feel any better.

It happened. Then. And today is now. And memory and loss and thinking, now five years later, is simply personal.

This evening, after I returned home from the beer and food with the friend, I went to my Yahoo headlines. I suspected to see something like, “Survivors commemorate the five year anniversary off the Tsunami…” But instead, the headlines read, “Nigerian man charged in Christmas airliner attack” and “Ferry sinks in Philippines..” Should I wonder why there is not a headline about an event five years ago that killed over 200,00 people? Or should I be ok that the world has moved on – and focuses on the news today and now?

As I talked today to a few other survivors, many felt the same sentiment. To us – it is an emotional memory. To the rest of the world, it is a moment in time – a regret – a sadness. And yet, another moment in time.”

That is ok. And perhaps, five years later, that is ok. Perhaps that is how it should be. Perhaps on a five year anniversary – it is time to draw the emotions away from the press – and the crowds, and make it a personal reflection – memory – emotion for each of us personally.

None of my family or friends sent me a note on the anniversary today. And for the first time, I didn’t send them a note. Tell anyone in person. Or let is casually slip out. Today – it was my day. And a day of my fellow survivors.

And perhaps that is a good thing on a five year anniversary!



At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Vancouver real estate agent said...

I am not one of the survivors but I suppose your attitude is a very healthy one. I mean, it is natural, that this commemorating day moved from the "whole world press day" to the day of a personal memory, you can share with people, who experienced the same. Nevertheless I'm still very sorry for all the people that lost their lives during this catastrophe and for those, who lost their family members or friends to it. Jay

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous winni said...

Your thoughts and memories are beautifully desciribed and thus shared,I was personally researching a survivor that appeared on australian television and came across your blog I found it to be a moving and very honest reflection of the personal experience you endured.Thanks Winni

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember. Thank you for your thoughts.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, we called Emelie and Olivia and we are from St. Jörgen's school, in Sweden. We do a school work on the tsunami in Thailand in 2004, and would have an interview with someone.
We looked at your blog that you've been through it?
Are you interested in answering some questions about the wave?
You need not answer these questions if they are sensitive!
please email o respond to
MVH Emelie Johansson and Olivia Agertoft.

At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Jay said...


from someone who also remembers, the sounds, the sights, the memories. One day we will go back, just not yet

At 3:35 AM, Anonymous Japan Tsunami 2011 said...

May their Soul rest in peace.. :)


Post a Comment

<< Home