|Unawatuna beach days after the tsunami|
Last year on the beach of Unawatuna in Sri Lanka, Shirley and I met a man who remembered Boxing Day 2004 very well. He was working in a beach front restaurant and it was early morning. When he woke and went down to the beach, he knew that something wasn't right. It was an eerie feeling. The tide seemed to be further out than it should have been. Then he heard a distant noise and saw the first tsunami wave on its way.
Instinctively, he decided to race into the nearby woodland where his parents' little shack was located. He yelled at them to get up and get out. The death water was coming now. He grabbed his mother and quickly carried her up to higher ground but when he turned and tried to get back to his bleary-eyed father it was too late. The tsunami had swept in. Later that morning, he found his father's corpse floating head down above the kitchen floor.
The man on the beach was probably in his early thirties. He was crouching near our beach chairs where we were drinking "Lion" beer as the sun sank peacefully over the Indian Ocean. Tears were rolling down his cheeks and we had tears in our eyes too. I put my arm around his shoulder and squeezed him because there was nothing much you could say. We felt a piece of his pain.
And then he returned to his job as a hawker - drumming up business for diving expeditions in the very ocean that had claimed his father and 35,321 others along the Sri Lankan coast, hundreds of miles from the epicentre of the undersea earthquake that created that monstrous tsunami ten years ago.
Afterwards, I attempted to write a poem based on the beach man's story. If you're interested, it's here.