Indonesia: Remembering the Tsunami

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"This Must Be the End of the World"

Nurlina recalls the moment she thought that the world was coming to an end.

She looked up in disbelief as a gigantic wall of water surged from the Indian Ocean - heading straight for the coast of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.

Nurlina's home - just yards from the beach in the nearby coastal community of Lamreh - was in the direct path of the monstrous wave.

"I thought: 'This must be the end of the world'," recalls the 36-year-old mother - one of the fortunate survivors of the Asia tsunami of December 26, 2004. "Everyone was running in panic, shouting and screaming: 'Run! Run!'"

At that moment, Nurlina's mind was spinning. What was happening? Where were her children? She remembered that her two children, ages 10 and 6, were staying with her sister nearby. Unsure what to do, Nurlina instinctively joined others running away from the beach towards higher ground.

Seven months pregnant, Nurlina was fighting for breath as she ran, anxiously looking over her shoulder, and having no idea if her children were in the path of impending doom.

Later, to her unspeakable relief, she discovered both her children were safe and that they had been crying for their mother, terrified that she had been swallowed up by the open-mouthed ocean.

As the tsunami smashed into the coastline, Nurlina's house was engulfed. Suddenly, her thoughts turned to her husband who had set off for town earlier in the day to sell onions at the market. She never saw him again. His body was never found.

Tears flood her eyes as she recalls the heartache. "Even now, I have no idea what exactly happened to him," she says. "Sometimes, I remember my husband and I start to cry..."

In the days following the tsunami, Nurlina's world seemed to have imploded.

"My husband was gone... I was pregnant... my house was in ruins... it was like the end of the world to me," she says.

Nurlina had no idea how she would press on with her life - let alone rebuild her home.

Then, World Relief arrived at the scene and began to work with some of the local people to rebuild their homes, offering encouragement and friendship as well as practical support.

World Relief's local staff became more than just helpers to Nurlina - they became like family. As our team helped rebuild her home, Nurlina invited them in to rest and eat. Now her home is fully restored - and our local workers often call in for a visit.

Today, Nurlina's youngest child - 4-year-old Dinda born just 50 days after the tsunami - is her pride and joy. She is the image of the father she never knew, Nurlina says, "loving and patient."

In the wake of the tsunami, World Relief restored several homes like Nurlina's and built 288 new homes for those who lost everything - people like Ali Isa.

Ali's Story

Father of three Ali describes the terrifying moment that the tsunami hit.

Sitting in his home, Ali could not believe his eyes. A massive wave - the like of which he had never seen before - was heading straight for the coast... and his house.

In a panic, Ali began calling his children's names. But there was no answer. Frantically, he rushed around the house, searching for the three youngsters, ages 8, 3 and 1.

Then, the enormous wave hit.

Ali was swept along by the raging torrent, trapped under the water. Amazingly, he surfaced and managed to grasp a hold of something. To this day, Ali doesn't know how he survived when so many thousands of people lost their lives.

Immediately after the tsunami's surge, Ali began searching desperately for his children. Cut by barbed wire and bleeding heavily, he was manic. Some neighbors tried to hold him down because they were afraid he would kill himself.

When Ali discovered his children were safe, he felt another wave - a wave of unspeakable relief.

But for weeks after the tsunami, Ali suffered repeatedly from anxiety attacks. He wondered if he would ever be able to live a normal life again.

With nothing left of his home, Ali looked for temporary shelter for his family. In response to the vast needs in Aceh Province, World Relief and partners launched a housing reconstruction program - and Ali's family received one of the new two-bedroom houses built out of wood.

Today, 38-year-old Ali expresses his gratitude. "This is a proper place to live," he says. "We are so thankful."