It Could Have Been Me (Tsumani 2004)

Tsunami 2004 – Sri Lanka – To lost friends never forgotten

(It still haunts me.)

‘Something terrible has happened” it’s on the TV,

As I woke Boxing Day morn, with mum calling me;

I’d just left there, making my annual pilgrimage back to the UK,

When disaster struck on that winters day.


As I watched the carnage unfold on the TV screen,

People I knew, places I’d been

Three days ago I was there,

Then it became only a wasteland, the coastline stripped bare.


The telephones rang but with no reply,

As frantically I tried to see if friends were still alive

And soon my mum’s house became a centre for collecting

All manner of household objects, toys and clothing.


Within the month I’d returned back home,

Travelled the coastline to see homes all gone.

80% of the coast affected or damaged,

Broken buildings and bodies, results of the carnage.


And so it began, the influx of peoples

From all corners of the world, to help where it was needed.

We issued out clothing; towels; linen and toys,

To the expectant faces of young girls and boys.


Slowly over the next couple of years,

I’d listen to stories and wipe away tears.

‘The first wave came when my children were at school’

My wife ran down the beach, there was nothing I could do’


Again and again, I listened to the recall,

How the sea rose up into a terrible wall,

Then came crashing down with power and anger

Leaving in its wake debris and danger.

They all perished, in the bungalow, as the wave struck,

Friends I had known, they’d had no luck

It could have been me, there on the beach

As the tsunami hit, safety out of reach.


And so for the next two years the c, ast became home,

As I helped rebuild homes and a Montessori where all village kids would come,

I met many peoples from all corners of the earth,

All helping rebuild lives and give meaning and worth.


I remember morning showers, a bucket, rope and a well,

Then swimming lessons on the beach, just this side of the swell,

There were times too of laughter as the tears slowly dried,

As we danced in the moonlight, remembering friends and sighed.


Piece by piece, homes were rebuilt,

As piece by piece I relinquished my guilt

Of being alive, when so many had perished

At the edge of the jungle, on a beach, I had cherished.


Their faces are engraved in a corner of my mind,

Tucked away safe forever, a memory to find.

I still recall the elephant song the children sang

As I left the village, shaking each by the hand.


Now on the eve of that fateful day,

I want to take the time to say,

I remember all who lost someone to the Tsunami

For there but for the Grace of God went I


26th December 2004, Sri Lanka’s Tsunami. Just three days earlier I had been there, and it could have been me!

To lost friends and strangers – you are not forgotten


©JEW December 2011

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