How I Came Out Alive
updated 01/31/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/31/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
It began like an ordinary day. I remember seeing foreigners playing in the sea as I put out tablecloths. Then I went into the kitchen, and when I opened the door to go back out, the water crashed in. As it rose steadily up to my chest, I thought, "I'm dead." I wanted to help my friends, but the water pushed me inland. I remember seeing Tim, our main cook, floating about 16 feet in front of me, then disappearing. I never saw her come up again. Somehow I kept my head above water and was pulled toward the Sheraton hotel terrace, which was on higher ground. I managed to latch on to the terrace railing, and a Thai man who was standing there saw me struggling and pulled me up. From where I stood, I saw another one of our cooks, an elderly lady who was clinging to the trunk of a nearby palm tree, crying. So I waded out, chest deep, and pulled her through the rushing water to safety at the hotel. I thought it was over and returned to the terrace. But a second wave hit. This one was about twice as high, more than seven feet, and it tossed me back into the water. I grabbed on to a floating piece of a thatch roof but was forced to let go. Luckily, the water pulled me back to the hotel, and another man helped me out.
Later I found my boss and some other employees. The restaurant had been bamboo with a thatch roof. In a blink the second wave tore it apart. We rode to my boss's house. No one spoke, no one cried. I was in shock. The next morning, I went back to help look for the dead. We found Tim's swollen body in a canal. We were good friends. She has two daughters.
It was good luck that saved me. I really enjoyed Phuket. It was my first time living by the sea. It was beautiful and it was big. Now I'm never going back.