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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

After the Tsunami: Healing From Tragedy

Aired January 9, 2005 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Fredericka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. In the two weeks since the devastating tsunamis ravaged southern Asia, the world is still trying to come to grips with the loss of life and the scope of a tragedy that has touched nearly every part of the globe. We bring you this CNN special report, AFTER THE TSUNAMI: HEALING FROM TRAGEDY.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a girl who I can't find. Her name was Matilda. She was from Argentina. And we were in the sea together. And when it went under, she said "take my hand." I said, no, I can't. Because I knew you couldn't hold on to someone. You've got to be strong and go on your own. And I didn't take her hand, and when the next wave came, she didn't come back up. If I would have held her hand, maybe she would have come back up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's tall, and just a strong lady. And for the moment, she's pregnant, five months. So she has a big stomach. She's a correct woman. She makes everything to contact me that I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I want my dad," he wails. I was crying in the village, she says, when someone told me that my son was alive and is in this hospital. I rushed here and found him alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We knew in a moment we were going to get killed. I told my wife and daughter to do something to rescue themselves. My daughter said not to worry, that she could swim, and would try to save her life. I think she had tried to do that. When I found her body the next day, it was lying upside down in the swimming position.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): I'm very sad, because I lost my husband. I saw my husband wiped out by the water, and he asked for help but I couldn't do anything. I just watched him go. But two of my kids did survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): I took my child and ran. But my wife and children got washed away by the sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): I had three children and two were lost. Only one remains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, he said, I hope you're strong enough to hear this news, he said. Our family's missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this land awash in water, no one has time for SMR Waty's (ph) tears. The sea stole her son and also her mother, a runaway train destroyed her home. As you moved through the trains, in each car, the smell of decay and of death is still present. It's been a week since the waters knocked this train off. And most of the bodies, they say have been cleared away. But you can still smell someone died in here.

You don't have to use your imagination to figure out what people were doing the second the water hit. Here's a plate of food someone was eating. Surrounded by flies. This woman's purse. Another one down here. Over here is a baby's diaper. It looks like a child's purse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): I could only see my son's face as he was being swept away, she says. I managed to catch him at first, but I just couldn't hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): My brother-in-law died along with his whole family. Only his daughter escaped since she was somewhere else. We came to see if we could find their bodies. Since they are still being pulled out of the wreckage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): All the houses in our neighborhood were destroyed. My mother is dead. We found her body near our house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): The sea came up over my head, he says. I wondered, will I see my wife, my sons? Would they become orphans? I swam against the tide, never sure whether I'd survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost exactly ten years ago, he read an article about tsunamis, and what he read stuck in his mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a great memory. People actually call me the dictionary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day of the disaster, he was on the local ferry dock buying fish when he noticed something strange in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ferry was raising two or three meters. And all of a sudden, the ferry was raising, the water came in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says when he saw the water levels rise, he started running inland. He says that many people shouted after him saying that he was crazy. But he says between 20 and 30 people followed him. And he says they survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They managed to get us to be able to scramble across some boats and lowered some tires down that we could, in fact, climb up to the pier. But the devastation was just astonishing. It was as if it had been bombed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of destruction here in the northeast part of Sri Lanka is so, so serious that it's very, very hard to believe that this could be real. But I think you need many, many years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the houses, the dress, anything lost, we are -- we are very, very sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their lost faces of the tsunami, not confirmed dead, but as good as. These are some of the many swept from hotels and beaches in southern Thailand, mainly tourists. Recovery efforts go on, but the sea may never surrender thousands it engulfed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife and I were running here, and I lost my shoes. So I don't turn around. I follow her. The last thing that I see, she was perhaps over there. And me, I go behind this pillar here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This very pillar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was exactly this pillar, yes. And from this moment on, I don't know nothing else. I feel empty. I don't know what I do now. When I come home. I have to begin a new job. I can't do that now. And I feel I'm so all these -- and I lost all these things, clothes and cameras and jewelry. But all these things are nothing. They have no value finally when you see all these dead people. Because when you go, you take nothing with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): We were going on an outing to the beach when suddenly the train stopped, says Shian. "Then a huge wave hit us, and our carriage flipped over. I hung on to the luggage rack. That was the last time I saw my mother and my two sisters." And he shows us how terrified and floating in water up to his chest he clung on until the tidal waves subsided, and he was rescued. It is an extraordinary triumph of survival when so many of the smallest, the youngest, the frailest have perished.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Viewing the gruesome aftermath of the tsunami disaster, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said no television picture can convey what really happened. Our special report AFTER THE TSUNAMI: HEALING FROM TRAGEDY continues with a look at the overwhelming challenges facing survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hearts are with you with you and we will be with you in the long haul. The American people and our government will continue to provide relief, but we will be part of the recovery efforts as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): There are lots of negos (ph) and private citizens in the government who are helping us. They're bringing lories full of foodstuffs to the refugee camps. They have basic health facilities there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My guys have got six other firefighters with me. They're all trained. They understand that it can be pretty grisly. But we're also ready to help out the people of Thailand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): I am grateful for this food aid. But this will be inadequate in the long term. We need rice, cooking oil and other kinds of food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the people here. There are hungry faces, and the suffering is just overwhelming. Through this thing, we realize, we are all brothers and sisters. If one brother suffers, we also feel the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tell us to carry the body into the back to, to clean the body because the doctors have to take the DNA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take all the bodies now, so we finish our work. During this time, we start the identification of the rest of the bodies, but it's impossible to say how many people were lying there, how many Asian, how many European or American, impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of Thai people working to build makeshift coffins at the moment. And they need to be left alone to do this important work. And they're finding it very distressing when relatives are going there to try to identify people that they can't recognize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is me, and this is my sister who passed away after the tsunami. And this is my young brother, lost, we don't know, missing maybe. I know they need medicine. Because in this situation, everybody in the hospital, maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty years, I never contacted my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray for him and his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a helicopter. When they went near the boat, they were inquiring for food. The moment we were informed, we launched our boarding party, and we rescued them. They were in a very bad shape, without water and food, unable to speak, and in a state of shock. After that, one of them was also injured. We had to bring them on board.

First four or five hours, we could not communicate. They were totally in shock. As you can see, some of them have sunburns with no water. They were given all the necessary immediate aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw the water coming up on the beach, I see another guy out in the waves. It was quite a big wave, four meters, five, maybe. And I said or shouted at him, I must go out there and save his life. So I threw myself out in the waves and started to swim to the guy. And when I came to him, he was so panicked, he couldn't swim good, I don't know. So I got this lifesaver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The force behind the water, you cannot -- if you haven't felt it yourself, you know, you cannot imagine how hard it hits you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as is necessary, we'll not give up, and we will go on as long as it will be necessary. We will be on the side of these people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could take months? You could be here for months?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think it will take probably a couple of years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even some of the animals here have a estranged, bewildered, dazed look in their eyes. You see them everywhere, stray dogs and cats roaming, searching through the rubble, trying to find something to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I think there are only about 30 children left," he says. "This place was crowded with children, but the water was just too high."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe if we can get down and talk to them and if something can be done. Time will heal wounds. But maybe just talking a bit will help them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shock's faded now, and everyone's had some time to process the information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): I kept running. My brother saved me. I was crying out to my mother not to leave me. I was praying that my sister would be safe. Later, I was told my mother is safe, and I found her when I returned home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): It seems difficult settling down again. But I will cover my syllabus gradually. I'm not afraid, only when I'm sitting alone, I remember everything I have lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've watched their demeanor, and they seem to be happy. Just as they were before all this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the children that are directly affected or living in these areas that have been hit by the tsunami, the reality is their world is very small. It's their families, their community. And when that has become disrupted to the extent that it is now, it is extraordinarily traumatic to children to have their world, in essence, disappear. It doesn't matter whether it's a small community disaster more a massive one. What they know is their families are gone, and they're displaced.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The children appear to be more resilient to certain forms of future mental health problems compared to adults. But it's very important to provide the child with a sense of stability and security right now during the worst of it so that the child can incorporate a message that they're going to be okay.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Faced with tragedy of biblical proportions, many tsunami survivors ask why and turn to faith for the answer. Our CNN special report After The Tsunami: Healing From Tragedy explores the spark of hope that lights the darkness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do believe my son saved our lives by sleeping that morning and prevented us -- we were all packed up and ready to go. But because he slept in, we delayed our visit to the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translator): I haven't thought about what is next. At the moment, I just have to be strong and not give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 500-year-old relic, Our Lady of Matra, the name of the church, the name of the town, disappeared from this case. The statue was found here in debris about a mile from the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I feel is that she was with the people, with her children. She didn't want to escape, or she didn't want anyone to take her and hide somewhere. She went with the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): I had no where else to go. We can only pray to Allah so that we will be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a kind of warning for people to think and mend their lives and not to go against the nature or even -- we have to live peacefully with everybody, and this is the time we're all coming together and helping each other. There is a message, through this catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How I could be able to answer all the questions about missing people because we feel responsible. They are, like, part of my family. For sure, they have to know the name of the staff. It's more like a family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is what's left of our hotel room. Our bed was here. And we were sleeping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was laying right over about in that spot right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very emotional to see that the father was alive, and the grandmother was alive. It's a tragedy that the mother died, but we were so happy for him. When we --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he was playing normally just like a normal kid. He had a toy, and he kept squeezing it, and he was talking. I mean, he was not like that the day we had him. He was not talking, not playing, not -- he was very out of it. So we were really happy to see he looked perfectly normal again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was being pressed more and more underneath whatever structure she was in, and then the water subsided. She was able to catch her breath had a few breaths, and then another wave came back in and did the exact same thing to her and submerged her again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really believe that the hand which is now most severely injured in her leg is what kept her alive because she could have possibly been swept out to sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The second day I gave up hoping for them. But then the evening of the second day, on the Monday, my mother finally got through on the phone and had survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So nice knowing where she is now. I mean, of course, we're not happy with the turnout, but it's just so nice knowing that she's somewhere safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess I have a lot of hope, too. There's been a lot of loss, but I mean, I'm encouraged by the way people have come together, you know, to sort of -- to help each other and work together to pick up the pieces. And to me, that's very encouraging. So I know, you know, we'll pull out of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have to think about, pray for other people who have no homes to go back to. We must never forget the people down there.

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