Thailand Tsunami Story revisited (2)

17 Feb

For the first few days after we set up the system, my main tasks were to find out the injured and the dead at various hospitals. I would walk past many people who were waiting for medical treatment and saw many of the victims with severe injuries in the ER as well as many of the dead bodies, male and female, young and old in the hospitals’ morgue both in Patong and in Phuket Town. Come to think about it now, it was quite strange that I was pretty out of it. It’s as if my feelings don’t matter. Maybe it was because I was concentrate on work, taking notes of people’s names and looking for them.

At the Phuket’s provincial office where people flooded in to seek help, putting up posters with photos of their loved ones, trying desperately to find out the way to find out whether they are alive or dead, I saw all of it but again, I didn’t feel anything for them. My job was to find the missing Japanese and find out their details as much as I could as well as interviewing the volunteers and the Embassies’ staff who were at the provincial office.

Even though after that when I was in Krabi and saw with my own eyes how the bodies were transported from Phi Phi island to the main land by speed boat, I felt nothing. Apart from trying to save myself from the germs, I would just chit chat to the police and the volunteers like I usually do in the normal circumstances.. then I hopped into the police care with the cameraman to get the shot of the truck full of bodies to the Krabi Foundation where they temporary set up the center for the bodies. After we reached the foundation what I did was to try to find Japanese people looking for their relatives to get them on camera. While they mourned their loss, I would just walk straight to them, hoping to get interviews….After we were done with the foundation, we moved on to the district office and coincidently found the grandfather of the little japanese girl who died.

I asked the cameraman to film her death certificate…she was seven years old.

When we thought we had enough footage, the next thing we had to do is to feed the tape, we couldn’t find anywhere to feed in Phuket, so at 1.30 in the morning we had to get back to Phuket for the satellite feed. That night after a long hard day, I slept like a log, my body somewhat become a robot like, sleep so I could wake up and repeat the same routine over again. It seems like at the time, all of us were working so hard that we lost track of time. There were so much work on our hands.

Of course people can never be robot. There’s always limit as to how the body and mind could cope. Towards the end of my second week in Phuket, I met a man and his family. I might have to ommitt the names since all of them have moved on.

I was doing my routine tasks of checking out hospitals with a cameraman for something interesting when I got a call from my then boss to come to Phuket’s Japanese Association, he told me he needed me to talk to someone. I dropped everything and went over there a little bit confused. There should be a Thai speaking staff with him..why me? Fifteen minutes later I got to Japanese Association and found my boss talking to other Japanese Media. When he saw me he took me aside and pointed to a very exhausted looking white man sitting on the footpath in front of the association. I will call him D.

I wasn’t sure what was going on but after the very short briefing my only task was to convince him to speak. So I sat down with him and offered him cigarettes. D looked puzzled but took it and thanked me. I sat there quietly for a while waiting for him to talk. When he didn’t I decided that I should. I can’t remember how I got him to agree to interview, but he did anyway.

As soon as I called the cameraman and put the microphone out, the other journalists rushed in, and D was taken aback a little bit but still very cooperative.  It was the first time that I was the one to feed the question after question without being interrupted.  I think I’ve asked a lot of questions that didn’t really make sense as I didn’t have any information about him what so ever.  So I asked his name and the situation.  It turned out to be that he’s looking for his Japanese wife who went missing on Phi Phi island, he survived the Tsunami, but couldn’t find his wife.

For the next full week, I was assigned to follow D from the distance.. which was just to be at the guesthouse where he and his sister stayed, wait for them to come back from the search to rest and planning for the next day. I would just sit nearby and sometimes listening to their plan as we were sitting very close by until they probably thought that I was no longer a stranger.  So that’s when I started asking questions and interacted with them more and more.  The more I got to know them, the more I feel that these people are very special.  D, his sister and his in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. T  they were and I’m sure still are all amazing.

(to be continued)

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