Phuket Tsunami - December 26, 2004 - Years after, another point of view

A year later... Tsunami memorial
Phuket Tsunami - Patong Beach

Phuket Tsunami

I didn't write this story to stir the past, but as a witness, some of the photos I took during those December 26, 2004 events shouldn't be forgotten. I'll post some here so they won't vanish from my memory. It's not a dark memory, it's a proof of the human natural capacity to survival and optimism.

Like everyone, I wish it never happened, but it did. I remember digging the sand for hours with a friend, trying to pull out some piece of garbage. I felt pretty useless, but we had to do something... anything. I told myself there must be something better we can do to help the island and its people...

Phuket Tsunami day - Running to the hills
So without really thinking about it, during the following weeks, I started to document the reconstruction of the island and share it with the world. Fox News was showing the devastation, I was showing the reconstruction. This was my contribution to the revival and I want to believe that it did count for something. It was the opposite of a dark documentation. What I was witnessing was unexpected, I saw how great human spirit can be: In extreme situations, ordinary people can do extraordinary things

Things were just unbelievable
Living in Patong, I was in the middle of it, but thankfully just far enough from where the water stopped. And like everyone, we ran to the hills. Seen from up there, no one could apprehend the span of the event, and only the following days we all started to assimilate the sheer size of the devastation. I'm not going to go through it, everyone knows and millions of photos did show. News and reporters were always looking for the most devastated areas to stand in front of and everyone was mad at them for that. When I thought of it years after,  we could say that maybe in an unexpected way, they did their part and moved the world.

Cleaning started right away
I chose another path: I walked through the ruins and the wrecks every single day and wherever I saw life coming back, I shared on my photo blog. Comments of supports where flowing to such extend that I was busy night and day posting each of them on my site. The more I posted, the more I received, until one day a French TV crew knocked on my door and ask to follow me for few days. I said yes, it's hard to refuse such honor, but soon I realized that I didn't like the idea of doing this. Nothing was wrong, they were nice guys... It was just 'not me'. I never saw that documentary.

Divers cleaning the sea
So here are some of the images that really meant something to me. They might not all be striking nor even impressive, but each come with a story, a memory and a lot of emotions. 6 years later, when I walk on the beach, local people still call me and greet me like a 'long time no see friend'. It can really be overwhelming.
 
 

Everyone was at it
Injured but still smiling
School volunteers giving a hand

School kids at a beach memorial
Kids can really move on
Beach boys after a cleaning day

Rebuild and smile
People were just smiling at me
Back to rebuilt school

Smiling survivors
 Beach Rescue team gathering
Survivors

Coming to help from Belgium
Patong like we never saw it
 
Monk blessing

Phuket Tsunami
The first kids I saw going back to the sea... kids can adapt so easily.