SERF Academy Director

Indonesian Child Tsunami

From the silent depths of  the East Indian Ocean, at approximately 2142hrs on the night of 25OCT10 an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale unleashed itself off the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Seven minutes later, the resulting Tsunami began roaring over the reefs of the most popular waves on earth and plowing its way into the small coastal villages that cling to their Western shores. Initial reports put the wave at anywhere from 3 meters to 10 meters in size. Oddly, the wave struck in an inexplicable manner. Erasing some villages and leaving others untouched. Science has yet to explain this. On 27OCT10 at approximately 2015hrs, the surf charter Vessel KM. Budydhari set sail from the mainland carrying food, shelter, water and medicine destined for the most remote of the devastated villages. Onboard was Matt George’s  Last Mile Operations rapid response team.  After two months of reflection on the experience, Matt offered this very persoanl dispatch.

Lydia, Maonai Village, South Pagai, Mentawai Islands

For Lydia, the betrayal was complete.

Her child ripped from her arms in the night. Her husband mangled in the debris. Her sleeping infant gone forever. Her left ankle half severed from her body after a tumbling nightmare through a grove of palm trees, swirling ocean and tin roofing. Moments of supreme horror. Choking. She still didn’t feel alive. And it all started inside the very church that was supposed to be her bastion of salvation.

She lays back in the tent and finds she cannot control her breathing. The fear is back. In the form of a hypodermic needle. A dripping, wicked looking thing. Wielded by strange, giant pale men in rubber gloves. Then comes the searing pain. Deep, nerve, childbirth pain.

She feels alive now.

She wishes she weren’t.

More pain. She keeps breathing, but has no idea where the air is coming from. Her eyes swim. She tries to sit up to stop it.  She sees a hooked needle pushed through her raw wound. And scissors cutting away her flesh. Blackness.

An hour later she is all alone.


It is quiet. She stares at the top of the tent, enduring the wet heat of noon. She has no idea what to do. She does not want to sleep. She cannnot move. Cannot walk. She does not want to remember, but she does. The hoarse, steady roar of the sea, the screams, the entire village running past her home, the last wild look at that impossible sight behind her as she dove with child into the safety of the small church.

Then the explosion of water and wood and pews and prayer mistles and worship and the rusty tin roof. An ungodly force ripping her little girl from her arms forever. The tumbling eternity underwater, lungfuls of it. The vomiting. The awful jungle silence. The dawn. The blinking. The palm fronds coming into focus overhead. The rain on her swollen lips. The crawling.

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