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Readers react to Asia's deadly tsunami

Aerial photo shows flattened houses near the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia
An aerial photo shows flattened houses near the coast of Banda Aceh January 5, 2005.
Pool / Reuters
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Here are some of our readers thoughts on Asia's deadly tsunami:


I think this tragedy shows that despite our ideological differences, we all have the same human needs. Each and every one of us need food, shelter, security, medical care, and to know that our children and loved ones are safe and secure. Why does it take this kind of devastation for people to pull together and to realize that we are all part of humanity? And why is that forgotten so soon? —S. McDonald, Calif.

My wife and I do business in Bangkok and have been to many parts of Thailand. We just got back from Patong Beach in Phuket last month. We were on the Phuket Island for 10 days. Now, we keep seeing photos of places from where we sat to stores visited. We think of the people we met there and are very sad.  Even before this, the people are hard to forget because of their eager smiles and ability to enjoy every day no matter what. We have been going there for seven years and they have made a huge impact on my life just by being themselves.  — Steve Riddle, Spokane, Wash.

Looking for a loved one
Jan. 5: Citizen Journalist June Shelley talks about shares how her family is looking for her ex-husband Sidney Shelley, who went missing after the tsunami.
The hardest thing is not finding proof that your loved one is dead. In my case, writer Sidney Shelley who was my ex-husband. Although I have found a photo of him, posted on a Thai web-site showing photos of unidentified foreigners, that will not sufficient proof.  I am now going to try and get DNA from one of Sidney's cousins to try and match samples they took from his body at a hospital in Phuket.  The American vice-consul in Bangkok has been helpful.
— June Shelley, Los Angeles, Calif., in an email dated January 4, 2004

My husband and I were lucky to have visited the Thai coast island of Phuket last spring.  It makes the devastation of this incredible natural disaster so much more visible to us as they are happening in places we visited, places we loved, and people we became friends with.  To know that these cities and towns may never be the same again brings tears to my eyes.  The Thai people are wonderful, warm, giving, and I know that they will pull through this.  I just wish there was more that I, an average American, could do.—Michelle, Phoenix, Ariz.

I live in Bandung, a city on the island of Java, located 1300 km from the Aceh Province. Although Bandung was not in the path of the earthquake and tsunami, the people here were emotionally and mentally affected. I have neighbors, classmates at campus and relatives who are still desperately searching for their loves ones in Aceh. Many students in my campus ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung) who are from Aceh were faced with such confusion. They wanted to go to home and search for their families but didn't know how to get there or where to start searching.

Others who were touched and moved by the scenes on televisions donated anything they could to support posts all over the city. In the midst of all the sad news, it is amazing how people can come together to help their fellow citizens in need. Not only are TV stations and other medias setting up numbers people can contact to contribute, but students from what seems to be every university in the city are stepping on to the streets with boxes to collect donations from car passengers and pedestrians.

A week after the tsunami, a local media reported that airports and seaports in many parts of Indonesia were fully packed with aid for the victims in Aceh. Support came from all over the country and from the international society as well.

These past few years, Indonesia has been through a lot— economic crisis, bomb tragedies and not-so-smooth government transitions. This has  left many pessimistic. But when I see all those hands stretching out to help the tsunami victims, I see people giving hope to others and sharing a dream. —Rahima I. Hanifa, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

I am an Indonesian who has been living in the states for a while. I haven't been home to Jakarta for over six years now. So, my husband and I learned about the earthquake on the Sunday evening news the day of the tsunami.

My heart beat a little faster after I heard the news. Even though most of my family lives on Java Island, I was concerned about the impact of this natural disaster to the people along the northern region of Sumatra. We do have friends around that area.

I called home right away that night. But all of the phone lines were busy. I finally contacted my brother the following day. He said that the earthquake mostly affected Aceh, the rest of the country didn't get damaged as much. The death toll (at that time) was about 4000.

But neither of us have heard anything from our cousins who are living in Aceh.

I did chat online with my friend from home that night, and she said it was terrible. The military people were sent to find and load the bodies in a truck and dumped them in a specific location to be identified and buried. So far, they did not have enough man-power and body bags to do the job. As we all know, in just a week, the death toll rose to 80,000 in Sumatra. People are deeply in need of clean water and food.

What a bad ending for 2004.  I keep following the news around this disaster and feel relieve that all nations around the world are hand-in-hand giving their pledging help.
A. Kasumovic, Mich.

I would like to share my sister’s e-mail which I received yesterday. My sister is working for the Minister of Health department in Jakarta, Indonesia (Division of Women Empowerment). She wrote about the tsunami aftermath, and the escalating sadness and tragedy for people in Indonesia.

She wrote:

We work in coordination with the ministry of social welfare. Everyday, we send stuff to Lanud Halim to be sent to Aceh by RI Airforce. We are now running of time to evacuate the dead bodies that are dispersed on the street, valleys, and forests, to help people who are starving, sick and homeless.

There are already 45,000 people dead, and more than 3,000 are still missing. More than 300,000 people injured occupy the hospitals in North Sumatra.

We are now facing problems of culture. Many people from Ache have feelings of connection to the place, so they won't leave too far from their village. They insist on staying, even if conditions are bad. We have 13 camps for refugees, and they have already refused to move.

Public kitchens are only for 500 people, and the refugee number is about 400,000, even more— maybe even up to 1 million. Some of them stay in relatives' house on higher land, with no money, no clothes, and no food.

At work our meeting was trying to figure out how to meet these goals: Trying to open more public kitchens, figuring out how to give special attention to women and children, and to get women and children sanitary items and milk. Some women cannot even line up for food and medicine because they need to take care of their very weak children.

Several groups are also targetting children for kidnapping out of Aceh. The government is afraid of trafficking, so the policy that the president passed is to ban children from being brought out of Aceh unless family takes them.

We are conducting an ASEAN Meeting, on January 6 to coordinate support for refugees and to figure out how to help people recover financially.

People here have a very specific culture— so for Aceh people to live in other places, like the city of Jakarta, is a concern.  A majority of the people in this area are Muslim, so they are also sensitive about receiving help from other regions. It's a very complex situation! 

My minister is trying to work together with NGOs for a trauma center, because we received news that many refugees are shouting and crying during the night.

This is a world disaster, and nothing like this has ever happened before.

I hope for the better tomorrow and future!

Love, Erna
Dr. Erna Surjadi, PhD,MS.

— Caroline Satyadi, Yuba City, Calif.

The disaster in South East Asia has touched everyone’s life and made citizens of the world realize how interconnected we are. No one has been spared, regardless of nationality, religion or economic status. An event like this makes mankind realize how important it is to help one another and at least for sometime, forget our prejudices and differences in the wake of this tragedy. —Anu

The holidays came with a diffrent meaning this year. Instead of focusing on the “little everyday things” we so often take advantage of, the New Years parties and guest count, reality struck. I mourned, I cried, my heart ached. This tsunami devistation, the loss, the destruction— it was an eye-opener for not only myself, but millions. As a parent I found myself greiving for the families ripped apart in a matter of second when nature reered it ugly head. I have held my children a little tighter and a little closer. I have learned to cherish things that I would have before bypassed without a second glance.

Many are trying to compare this devistation with the 9/11 attack. You can’t compare the two. They each, on their own account, have effected millions around the world. They both brought their own loss and grief. They are both events that will forever remain eched in our minds for the rest of our lives. —Amanda Warren, Albany, Ga.

I lived in Thailand 3 years and just returned from Phuket and neigboring islands.  I took many pictures of lovely people.  Many of these people lived in over-the-water homes and shops (often one in the same) backed up against high cliffs.  I am sure when the tsunami came through, it wiped them away.  Now I look at those pictures and realize the few moments of smiles we had together are all that is left.  I wish I could attach pictures of some of those beautiful people and their wonderful smiles. — Dennis Foth, Panama City, Fla.

In Malta, a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and part of Europe, we citizens (though very small in population, barely a quarter of a million) are doing our best in our limits to help the people of the disaster.  Today Sunday 2nd January 2005 18:00 hrs local time in a televised collection effort we have already managed one third of a million Maltese Liri. Another effort to send clothing and food— we thought of sending two container loads— instead we will be sending ten container loads full of food and clothing.  More volunteers are gathering to load the goods.  — Charles Bugeja, Hal Balzan, Malta

I have spent the last few days watching the events in SE Asia from a local children's hospital where my nine year old daughter just underwent surgery. My emotions about her welfare and recovery became intertwined with the horror dealt on the tsunami children. No one wants to experience such sadness and emotion but yet there is always hope and we become enlightened by the experience.

My daughter, Sophie, has Cystic Fibrosis and must continually battle to stay healthy. Her determination has been inspired by the humanitarian aid efforts to relieve the suffering. Our hearts go out to all those helping the tsunami victims!  — David Miller, Winnetka, Ill.

To me, the top story of the year should be the contemplation of the contradiction of American life today. Our leader will shortly be throwing a forty million dollar inauguration party for himself. At the same time the fallout of a natural disaster of biblical is proportions is unfolding. We are fighting multiple wars with our solders being killed daily. Our national debt is skyrocketing. I, like a good portion of Americans, sit comfortably in my home digitally receiving the latest information on all these events and issues— utterly helpless to do anything about any of them. I believe that as an appropriate as well as practical gesture of true leadership, our president should cancel is inauguration party and donate that money. Of course, we all know that won't happen. But what if it did? Contemplation? Contradiction? The digital age? It is a sweet fantasy, the action the world would be inspired to take by such a gesture. — Max Clement, Seattle, Wash.

At times, as journalists— especially in Africa, on the beat, nothing moves us. We have seen it all: People fall by the brutal bullet of trigger happy policeman, two-year-olds being raped by the army, ministers selling relief food meant for dying people in famine struck areas. But for my four years on the job, I have never watched an event that touched my emotion this much.

Odd to read that major global cities and millionares have muted New Year festivities in the quest to [fund] relief for the Asian brothers and Sisters who themselves are drawn across the world. — Karl Dennis Itumbi, Nairobi, Kenya

This tsunami has changed my view of the world and its peoples, and I hope and pray that the survivors can somehow find comfort, and hope, that the future will begin again, and life will go on. Hopefully, people will find a better life, where communities all around the world work together to accept differences among the people, and help with common goals of letting no child, no adult, go without basic needs. This New Year's Celebration will be my family holding a candlight vigil at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego, CA. Clear skies or rain, we shall be there with our prayers sent into the wind to travel to the survivors on the spiritual journey of hope. — Valerie Harlow, San Diego,Calif.

The tsunami tragedy transcends ideology, culture and religion.  It is truly sad that it takes such a horrific event to remind us that we are all the same. We see the death, suffering and anguish of others and we realize that the greatest thing we all have in common is our fragile humanity. Ironically, in the absence of such pain, we tend to believe that somehow we are better than others for what we have, what we have acheived or what we believe.  In reality, we are all equally wonderful and differently special human beings with the same gift of life, the same capacity for love and the same destiny in death. What makes us human has nothing to do with what we temporarily accumulate in the material world, but eveything to do with how we cultivate our souls in order to harvest the love that is uniquely and ubiquitously human.— Mark Turner, Carpi, Italy

I am 24 years old and by God’s grace, have many more years to live. Please never let my eyes, ears or soul experience anything like this again. It has made me realize that whenever we get through fighting over the simple things in life there are powers that are much greater than ALL of us, that can take over at any given moment. We have just seen how quickly our lives and loved ones can be taken from us and how much we need to cherish everday we are allowed to be here on earth. I think as Americans, where we live in such diversity, need to take this as a wake up call and use it to our advantage. We need peace amongst us, it is the only way. We have the privilage of living in a society where we can experience a melting pot of cultures. We can have the finer things in life if we want. Many people have no greater hopes than surviving day to day and providing food for their loved ones. It’s time to realize more now than ever, that there is only ONE race and we all know what that is, the Human race..— Tasha P., Minneapolis, Minn.

Watching the horrific news videos and listening to the reports of incredible human, real-life drama in the wake of the tsunami destruction is very overwhelming indeed.  It seems unfair that we can watch such devastation in the comfort of our living rooms....our hearts bleeding with compassion, our eyes filled with tears seeing our fellow human beings' lives ripped apart.  The world's response has been encouraging, but the true level of this loss will not be known for quite some time.  Other stories seem so unimportant.  As one writer stated earlier, it blows my mind that the evil doers in Iraq continue on with their selfish, narrow agendas in the face of such human destruction.  One wishes all of this energy could be re-directed to SE Asia in an effort to help aid the suffering.  The message of the tsunami is plain: "Figure it out, World Community! Life is too short and is not promised.  Fill your days seeking to build humanity rather than tear it town!  Come together while you can!"  — Stuart Whitney, Bellevue, Neb.

All my life I felt safe because living in Malaysia means we escape typhoons, earth quakes, volcanoes, massive floods etc. The occasional mudslide and landslide are the only two natural calamities that have ever hit Malaysia, thus far.

On Dec 26, however, my perspective changed. Suddenly I realize, painfully thought, we are no luckier than the rest of the citizens in South East Asian countries. The earthqauke that started in Sumatera and caused the tsunami - reached the Malaysian shore in less than 30 minutes.  Penang island is so close to the Indonesian part of Sumetera Island, that we share the same languange, culture, and ethnic group; Achenese have settlement in various villages in Malaysia, and play pivotal political roles in Kedah and other states back in the years prior to British colonization.

Although the death rate in Malaysia is low, with the latest count at 71, the impact on the economy of these people is huge. Villagers and fisherman depend on the sea to earn their living. Scores of school children lost their text books and school uniforms, husbands are looking for wives and children, elderly citizens lost their only property;their huts. We are lucky thus far the devastation is small compared to those in Indonesia, and the damage is minimal, plus the  the government is mobilizing certain agencies to work along side the NGOs to to expedite the necessary aid. Money, food and clothes are given to victims who seek shelters in schools or lodging with their relatives.

The point is, it did happen in Malaysia. All these will only make us humble, reminding us time and time again, we are only human and cannot stop the fury of nature. It only makes us human, to know that suffering does occur, death happens, and it can happen in your own country, to your own relatives - something that is not just a mere story told by CNN news from television set, in the confort of your living room.— Lily, Kuala Lumpur

I cannot begin to fathom how the people of South East Asia must be feeling, all I know is I can't stop the tears from rolling down my face as I read of the destruction and more so when the I see the photos of these poor dead people and their grieving families.

Being safely in Australia and seeing these images that are so very close yet so far away it just doesn't seem real yet it feels so terrible to know that all these beautiful precious lives are all gone from this world in such a horrific way. So many people, millions of people, have had their lives altered so dramatically, I just hope and I pray that these lives will never be forgotten not just by family and friends but every person on this world of ours.  I want everyone to always remember this tragedy and realise that life is to short for petty indifferences and to enjoy every day here because you never know where tomorrow will take you. I hope that you will all love each other a little bit more after this tragedy and the pain, loss of life and devastation that is still yet to come.— Laurel-Jane May, Queensland, Australia

While a great deal of attention has been focused on the immediate tragedy from the Indian Ocean Tsunami little has been reported regarding the awesome Bang of the Earthquake itself. The force of this gigantic event forced the Earth to shudder on its Axis. Is it possible that something larger is going on here? Time will tell.  — Robert Polhemus, Yonkers, N.Y.

When I realized the scope of the tragedy unfolding this week, I took time to call our very busy son and daughter-in-law who have six children...knowing that the busyness of their home and holiday activities might mean they weren't seeing the big picture yet.  I called to alert them to something so big and so terrible, that it was worth taking their 5 teenagers'time, to try to take it in, and very simply, care about something beyond the end of our own noses.  As my daughter-in-law and I talked, we were both simply stunned by what was happening, and she agreed that their children needed to take in at least some of this, appropriate to their ages.  I am so very very sorry for the unimaginable losses being experienced by these people and their nations. — Ann Larsen, Culbertson, Minn.

Sitting here safe and warm at my computer reading about this tradgedy, the stupid hypothetical everyday problems of my sixteen year old life are forgotten and make me feel full of shame. Viewing a picture of a father holding his dead child in his arms envokes in myself such a strong feeling of sadness and helplessness, especially during a season meant for joy. I want to help so much more than just donating some money, but i feel helpless. This ultimately must be the biggest story not of the year but one that will affect my life. — Jennifer,Tampa, Fla.

Unimaginable. Is the only thing that seems to even come close to putting into words the horror that has literally engulfed the people in South East Asia.  Those of us, who read, hear and watch the devastation, cannot truly grasp the utter hopelessness and loss.  The faces of the people who lived through it only to confront death on so many levels, as well as, on such an enormous scale are heartbreaking.  Of course, when it comes to innocent lives, especially childrens, there cannot be any greater tragedy. 

My heart, thoughts and whatever resources I personally can provide will go out to those whose lives have irrevocably been changed forever. Please know, you are not alone, the world is taking you under it's wing with whatever help we can provide for as little as it may be worth in the aftermath of last Sunday's earthquake and resulting tsunami's. — A.Sauvage Mielenz, Elk Grove, Calif.

While I am genuinely grieved over the great loss of life in Asia this week, I am very tired of the United States of America being expected to foot the bill for the welfare and recovery of the whole world. How dare a representitive of the United Nations (an entity who owes its beginnings and its continued exsistance to the USA) call this nation stingy. We will contribute more than our fair share without demanding or even expecting a return, we always do. It is in the nature and character of this country- but maybe we should consider making that contribution through a body less arrogant and corrupt than the United Nations.— Karie Manton, Acworth, Ga.

114,000 dead… It's almost as if Nature is proving that it can kill more people than Bush's Iraqi war. It puts things into perspective. Our hearts and our money should be in Southeast Asia rather than Iraq! — VietNam Vet, Wexford, Pa.

I agree with my fellow Americans that the Christmas quake is the story of 2004 perhaps the story of modern history. I also agree with the shame of having our President offer not words of encouragement but rather offer cheap, defensive comparisons as to who donates the most money. Let's remember our fellow humans who now suffer in front of network camera's in Iraq and in SE Asia. -- Angelo Prieto, San Diego, Calif.

Get with it! Canada has pledged $40,000,000.00. — Imvass, Toronto

Where were you when the tsunami hit?"  As with all other momentous events like 9/11, and the space shuttle disasters of 2003 and 1986, a question is no doubt being asked all around the world, especially in South Asia.  Wherever one happened to be on December 26 at the time of the 9.0 undersea earthquake and subsequent tsunami there will be no forgetting it and plenty of memories of where one was at the time.

I had just returned from my sister's house in Huntington Beach, Calif. where I went with my parents, sister and nephews to celebrate the holidays. I clicked on the television and saw the first report of a earthquake in the Indian Ocean, my first thought was, ‘Oh! I hope there won't be a tsunami’. Well, when I got up the next morning and saw and heard the reports of the tsunami and the death and devastation it caused, that hope fell.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami is the most tragic event of the 21st Century so far.  Until December 26, 2004, the great disaster of the present century was 9-11.  Though it wasn't a terrorist attack, the citizens of Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, The Maldives and others in or around the Indian Ocean have experienced their own 9-11. — Dana Snodgrass, Mission Viejo, Calif.

I agree with the other readers that the tsunami tragedy takes the prize for top story of 2004. There are not enough adjectives to describe how the people around the world are feeling.

I was less than two miles from the epicenter of the 6.8 Northridge Earthquake in 1994 and so I have experienced first hand the damage an earthquake can cause.  However, even I cannot begin to imagine the magnitude of the loss from the tsunami.  This is one of, if not the, greatest tragedies of our lifetime. I only hope that the people of Southeast Asia are eventually able to rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and can find some solace in the knowledge that people from around the world have them in their prayers and are trying to help. — Lynn Goldberg, Alexandria, Va.

What about those of us who are willing to take a family/orphan into our homes to help? is there a website we can go to that can lead us in the right direction for that? — A. Eissa, Cairo, Egypt

The story of the year? No question, it is the earthquake-triggered tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Lives were transformed in a matter of minutes and the geographical map of the world has been altered (literally!). However, I would hope that this epic tragedy does not fade from our minds as the story of 2004 and then we move into the new year.  — Gautham Appaya, St. Charles, Ill.

I am an Indian working in the Unites States and like all people am truly stunned with the extent of the damage and loss of life. My prayers to all affected by the tragedy.

The part that touches my heart and stands out the most is the unselfishness, generosity and compassion of Americans and people all over the world in doing all they can (donations, messages and so on) to make things just that little bit easier for the affected people. Nothing can replace the loss of life, but these gestures, thoughts and prayers of kind people can go a long way in filling up the gaps of anguish. Mankind needs to walk away with a lesson here and understand that any and all differences are petty, so long as humanity exists.  — BP, Virginia

I find it hard to believe that, during one of the worst natural disasters in our time, that people still bring politics and what seems to be petty differences into play.  It's disgusting how the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan rebels cannot work together during this time of need.  
Mark Murray, Atlanta, Ga.

I was sitting at home, much like when the events of 9-11 occurred, when I learned of the tsunami.  Much to my disbelief, the story broke that thousands of people perished. I thought it was something straight out of a movie. You sit and wonder how such tragedies can happen, and keep happening. The Iraq/Afghanistan war, the hurricanes that devastated Florida, and now a Tsunami? What's next?

It's events such as these, that make you stop and realize that a human life, rich or poor, has no value; each life is priceless. When 9-11 happened, the whole country stopped and everyone was pitching in to help in anyway they could, same with the hurricanes. And now the entire world is coming together to help victims. Why must such tragedies bring us together as one when we should be one from the beginning? It saddens me to think that only death and destruction brings people together. — Christopher, Simi Valley, Calif.

It is the story that has it all. Pathos and hope. Devastation. Images and stories of fear, escape, and luck. Science, the internet, politics, medicine, economics, and communications. Troops and aid agencies. Princes, chancellors, celebrities, kids, and ordinary people lost, injured, and escaped. Lines at airports and food centers.

The election story may have dragged on all year, and may drag well into next year. It will affect America (and Ukraine, and all but 5 countries in this world) for far longer. But as a story, the biggest story of 2004 is hands down the last major one, the Great Christmas Tsunami of 2004. — Matthew Filler, Downey, Calif.

I am lucky to have cancelled my trip to Phuket on Saturday.  Instead, I flew back to USA early. Now after finding my life back, would request fellow citizens to save some money from their holiday spending and send little money to help the orphans and homeless in parts of world where medication is utmost required post tsunami. Also, request local governments all around the world to reduce their new year celebration money and send money to millions of people in Asia who have lost their homes and loved ones. — Ganesh, Fremont, Calif.

For a few hundred million dollars, the world could have had an early warning system about Mother Nature's weapon of mass destruction.  Instead we're paying billions in dollars in Iraq and hundreds of thousands of lives in SE Asia. I totally support our troops but are we fighting the right war? — Dick Bell, Danville, Calif.

Let us leave the Islamic/Muslim people to live their own damn lives and fight their own wars, pull our Americans out of Iraq and send those billions of dollars to the tsunami victims fund, and put our money to good use.  It's plain and simple, Osama wants us to butt out of his business and he'll stop messing with us.  Let our men and women in the service come back home and be with their families.  Stop wasting our soldiers lives and stop wasting our tax dollars on fighting a war that we will never win.  Let's help our fellow human beings who have been affected by this tsunami tragedy.  This will not only help those who need it but it may also show the world that Americans put human life at the top of its priorities and not world domination.  
Susan Kim, Santa Barbara, Calif.

This tsunami certainly puts war and terrorism into perspective, when one considers that these thousands of lives were not looking for death and destruction.  This horror, so remote, affects many, many people around the world and motivates us to action.  Those people who feel no impact should not be in positions of power, or should be dropped into the middle of it for the duration.  Thank you, Bill Clinton for stepping forward quickly to express the feelings of caring Americans. — Cindy Smith, Hurst, TX

I am admittedly man of little emotion, but watching this disaster unfold, I have found this tragedy bringing me to the brink of tears. When I hear about the number of children that drowned, I can't help thinking about my own small children in that situation. I think about the fear they would have experienced or their struggle to stay above water. I find myself stricken with fear, sympathy, and thankfulness. I have sympathy for those who have had their lives destroyed by this awful tragedy. — Eon Anglin, Smyrna, Ga.

I have read the stories, watched the news and each time the tsunami brings tears to my eyes. These are people I have never known but the loss is overwhelming. Unfortunately, as with 9-11, most of the grief and amazement from the event will go away for most people. We will all move on with our lives in comfort and be thankful it was not us. It is the human factor of seeing, being outraged and then moving on, ultimate coping mechanisms.  But we should not forget the visions and stories of this catastrophic event in Asia. — Stephanie M. Van Gordon, Warr Acres, Okla.

I have listened to every news station and read ever article on the tsunami, and there is one topic that keeps getting brought up: 9-11.  No one can compare the two.  One was brought upon by a group of people who do not agree with another group of people; the other was completely Mother Nature.  I get really sick of hearing about the comparison of 9-11 and Southwest Asia.  I am not downplaying the 3,000 plus deaths that we endured, but this act of nature took 114,000 lives so far!  114,000 lives?  I don't think anyone can grasp that.  How do we compare?  The events of 9-11 are nowhere near the devastation that the tsunami has created. — Michael, Syracuse, N.Y.

I saw a photo... A child in a man's arms lying as if asleep, eyes peacefully closed. The father's mouth wide in anguish, eyes pleading for it not to be true. This photo spoke to my heart as a parent. No matter our religious, racial, or economic differences, the heart of a parent who must bury his child knows no end to the injustice and suffering that follows. This one man's pain is thousandfold, as so many parents must do the same, and so many of us wish that we could do more.

The story itself is as shocking as 9-11, as no one knew such devastation and heartbreak was possible. For the wreckage to come on the heels of festivals and holidays throughout the world is but a bitter twist to the story. I believe this story will change us -all of us- and hopefully for the better if we can prevent another tragedy from occurring again, and to stop disease in the name of a common humanity. —Lara Shin

I have been as effected by the devastation in SE Asia as I was for 9-11. I find myself glued to the news waiting to see what's happening, wishing I were trained in a way that I could just go off and help. The other thing that I have noticed is my acute awareness of my self-centered little world. We tend not to think of others usually, but in this instance, I find myself really trying to be present, realizing that I am in my comfortable house with food to eat, a husband who loves me and my home in tact. All this while millions have been forever displaced and ravaged. The contrast is stark. I have also noticed that the war continues, Osama Bin Laden still threatens, and in general people are still mean and selfish with each other. Can't they just stop for a moment and realize that there is something bigger out there than they are and become a part of the solution rather than continue to stir things up? If nothing else, I have felt a greater sense of connectedness to all of this. This is a reality check for me. My prayers and thoughts are with them. I will light a candle in remembrance of this tragic loss to all of us.      —Elizabeth Edwards, Phoenix, AZ.

An event such as this is saddening...and makes us realize just how precious and easily squashed life can be. I do hope however that it does have some positive outcome...that bringing all the world together in a time of disaster for the relief of others...and makes mankind forget their petty differences. It is very sad that in a time of disorganization and disaster that some groups use their military mite to decide where the disaster relief in forms of food, medicine and clothes goes...and in essence deciding who lives and who dies. I also find it rather sad that the human race can send a mission to mars...send back visuals and all kinds of pertinent scientific information...but cannot put in place a warning system that can prevent this type of disaster...or at least have a warning system in place that would greatly lessen the devastating effects...three to six hours may not be a lot of time...but if an early warning system was in effect think of the many lives, and huge amounts of misery, that could have been averted.—Willie Zee

I am a 52 year old woman, soon to be 53. Never in my whole life have I known or heard of such a total disaster. When I first heard of the tsunami, I also heard the words 'Biblical disaster'. I believe this tragedy is of the same category as those of Biblical times. The story of the year? Absolutely!

The full consequences of this incident may not be fully known for some time to come, if ever. The loss of lives, the loss of whole groups of cultures and the peoples, the loss of so far unknown species of plant life and animal life; the full extent may never by known. Our loss.

There will be more to count as time goes on, disease will take its toll as well.

I am fully saddened by this turn of events. I sat here and cried as I read the stories. I also rejoiced to read that the rest of the world is pulling together to send help. Maybe in this sad time, we can overcome this tragedy and the whole of the human race will realize that life is so very precious, all life. —Debra Talmadge

The 4 hurricanes to hit Florida were what affected myself and my family the most in 2004 and I would have said it ws a bigger story than the elections or anything else until I heard of the destruction in Asia caused by the Tsunami! I really feel so sorry for them all, especially the children left behind. I cried for them and I will continue to pray for them in the weeks ahead. It really put into perspective how good we still have it here in Florida even without help from FEMA and even though we are still waiting to replace our roof and lost furniture. There will always be someone who has it worse. We have it good here and should be more thankful.—Mrs. Harris

THE STORY of 2004 clarifies vividly what really matters on this Earth...Love. The millionaires in their beachfront luxury and the poorest in their hovels share equally in the devastation, pain and loss. Yet, as the story continues, they will also share hope and the resilient human spirit will begin, a stick at a time, to rebuild. We will all cry together and ask God (by whatever name we know Him) Why? Then we will resolve together to help our brothers and sisters gather up what remains of their lives and move on. How insanely trivial other stories become in the face of this tragedy. How important it becomes to say, "I love you." to our families and friends. —Tita Roach

I don't see how any story could be more important or affect more people than the tsunami tragedy this year. In my lifetime, there has not been one "single" incident that has affected more people than this. I am a 33 year old mid-western innocent. Yes, certainly the election, the Iraq/Afganistan war and the health care crises all affect me more on a personal level, but we cannot, as human-beings, deny the power of nature and the devestation that it has brought upon this earth on such a grand scale. 100,000 people estimated dead? 9/11 affected about 5,500 people and their families and that shook me to the my core. We as Americans have to acknowledge the depth of this tragedy. —Tami Ausland

I agree with Mr. Schmidt and the others that this disaster is the story of the year. No other event has such global ramifications and has touched so many lives. All other events pale in comparison to the destruction and human toll this event has brought. —Michael Boyne

I too believe that this is the single, greatest devastation the world has ever experienced. I am deeply saddened for those who lost loved ones, their homes, and their lives. I hope that we all learn from this and always remember how every second really does count. —Maria Paige

I think all of us really need to wait until the very end of the year to be able to form an opinion about the most important and sensational story of 2004.  One never knows what may happen on the very last week of the year, proof of which occurred this past Sunday.

This story differed from the divisive national elections, Iraq and the unfortunate Florida hurricanes.  The disastrous Asian earthquake and tsunami, which, at this writing on Dec. 29, has an expected death toll of 100,000 lives and untold billions of damage in property to the beaches in southern Thailand and other nearby countries.

I hope for a happier New Year for all of humanity in 2005. —Bill Fulton

The biggest story has got to be the Great Christmas Quake of 2004.  When the tolls are counted, it will most likely be the worst natural disaster in modern history.

It now looks as if over 100,000 will have died in the immediate aftermath, and many more thousands are threatened by disease, starvation, and homelessness. 

This disaster also threatens the extinction of the few remaining primitive tribes on earth within the Andaman and Nicobar islands.  This alone would be an anthropological ruin.  Even if there are survivors, a small loss of their children could spell doom among tribes that number less than 100 and have survived the colonial, industrial, and nuclear ages.  

It is also likely that some animal and plant species may have been wiped off the earth permanently from the force of the waves.  

Never before has a natural disaster killed so many people over an area so large, measuring over 3,000 miles apart. While 12 nations have been physically affected, many other nations have seen staggering losses.

The disaster will have an enormous psychological effect on the world, hopefully drawing us closer together and bringing environmental issues to the forefront once again.  Perhaps, we can hope that there will be a silver lining from the suffering and the people of Planet Earth will realize that this large planet is truly small.  —Keith D. Hansen, East Stroudsburg, Pa.

The biggest story of 2004 was the power of Mother Nature. 

An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in Indonesia with associated deadly tsunamis killing an expected 100,000 people in Asia is an unfathomable display of Mother Nature's wrath.  We won't know the final toll until 2005.  I've been in an 8.1 and can't imagine that power ten-fold - more powerful than the politician's rhetoric and election results of 2004.

On a brighter note, knowledge of Mother Nature is powerful and came in the names of Spirit and Opportunity.  Landing on Mars in January 2004, they not only completed their three-month primary missions in April, but will likely end the year still transmitting data some 300 million miles. The understandably excited handful of scientists drooling over the latest photos and other information have learned more about the place we live.  Mars may become the next "New World."

Scientists are still discovering new species on earth.  It’s fascinating that Mother Nature hid them so well.  A new macaque monkey in India? Unbelievable.  The discovery of the Flores people of Indonesia that grew to be three feet tall and were co-habitants at least to 13,000 years ago.  And evidence exists that a new species of ape, the Bili ape, with traits of gorillas and chimps inhabit the Congo; the ape has scientists scrambling to find more documentation. 

What a place we live that only Mother Nature knows best.  Destructive at times, yet at others, fascinating.  —Tom Hall, Ft. Collins, Colo.

The story of the year is unfolding right now. The terrible death and destruction caused by the tsunami in Asia has probably affected the entire world like never before. I believe that everyone sending aid should not stop when things are returned to stable. They should also install a tsunami warning system for all of the countries that do not have one, not just the victims of this disaster but all countries that are without them. The safety of the people of our world should be their primary concern. If they would focus on tsunami, tornado, hurricane, cyclone and earthquake warning systems for the parts of the world that cannot afford them, they would be taking part in the preservation of lives.  —Barry Schmidt

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