10 Years After the Indian Ocean Tsunami
“It was a beautiful sunny day in Thailand. My partner and I took a walk in the morning on the beach. We just finished breakfast and went back to the bungalow to begin packing because we were planning to leave in two hours. In a matter of seconds life changed for us and for millions of people.” – Petra Nemcova
The event that our founder, Petra Nemcova, is referring to is the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. This tragic event left mass destruction in it’s wake. 14 countries were impacted, nearly 250,000 people lost their lives, and over 500,000 people were injured. Even larger than these numbers is the amount of people who lost their homes, lost their livelihood, or lost a loved one.
One of the countries impacted was Thailand. This is where our founder was directly impacted by the tsunami. She recounts, “My pelvis was broken in four places and I almost drowned many many times so I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be saved. After holding onto a palm tree for eight hours I was found by a Thai man who risked his life to save the lives of strangers. Another wave could have come any minute yet he chose through his unconditional love to try to save others.”
Last month on December 26th, 2014, the 10 year anniversary of this devastating moment in her life, Petra returned to Khao Lak, Thailand for a special commemoration ceremony organized by the Thai government. The atmosphere at the event was heavy with sounds of sadness from approximately 1000 individuals and families from all over the world who came back to Khao Lak to commemorate their tragic experience and their loved ones who were lost. Despite this lingering sadness in the air, there were many moments of hope and beauty that came through this event.
Rebuilt community: The beaches of Khao Lak which were previously destroyed and wrecked by the massive waves were completely cleared and the community was rebuilt. In general, the whole country of Thailand that was impacted was able to recover and rebuild fully.
New Warning Systems: During the ceremony the Thai government showed that they invested in creating disaster warning centers for the entire country and especially the coastal communities. 10 years ago these systems didn’t ! Their response units are impressively well trained for fast and effective response and warning.
Candle Ceremony: Every year since the tsunami, our founder has lit a candle to commemorate the anniversary. She said, “To light a candle this year with everyone in Thailand whom I have been deeply connected to for the last 10 years was extremely moving. It was also very meaningful and magical that the candle was in a shape of lotus flower since Lotus flowers symbolize rising and blooming above the mud and murk to achieve enlightenment.”
On December 26th, 2014, we asked our supporters and global citizens around the world to join in this remembrance by also lighting a candle from wherever they are in the world. The whole Happy Hearts Fund team was touched by how many people joined in this movement together to show support and care for everyone affected by this tragedy. Petra said, “I was so touched by how many people joined and lit their candle for #light4tsunami because this event was one that connected the whole world. 10 years ago individuals, families, and countries were asking “How can we help?”. This campaign 10 years later has again connected the world with positivity and unconditional love.”
We would like to send our sincerest appreciation to everyone who joined us on Instagram and Facebook by posting a photo of a candle with #ligh4tsunami. Together by lighting hundreds of candles around the world we sent a positive message that light is stronger than darkness and that we will never forget those who were lost 10 years ago.