Some of the most amazing tales of survival from the devastating tsunami have come from the children who miraculously lived to tell their tales at the Phuket Hospital in Thailand.
One story that struck us was that of a 9-year-old boy, who had tubes in his nose to help him breathe. His name was Philip and he was from Kazakhstan.
Philip survived along with a younger brother, but the rest of his family was swept away to their doom. The boy held on by hoisting himself onto a drifting mattress.
He’s a miracle child because he saved himself. But what is so incredibly sad is that he is all alone.
Justin Balding, my Russian-speaking producer, asked Philip if he wanted to use our phone to call anybody. He only looked up at him and said, “There is no one to call.”
There are just so many stories here, more than a week after the devastating tsunami that killed at least 5,000 people in Thailand — and more than 140,000 across Southeast Asia.
One child we met, a 5-year-old girl from Sweden, said she got sucked up in the wave, which spit her out up high on a hillside, where she was left unconscious.
Ultimately, a Thai woman found her and returned the girl to her family. The girl’s father said he’s been trying to find the woman to say thank you, but he doesn’t know who she is.
Amidst the stories of survival, there are many many more tragedies.
One man came here to find his missing daughters and learned that one survived and the other perished in the tsunami.
He is trying to make sense of the fact that one of his children won’t come back and he is trying to figure out how he is going to explain it to the one daughter that lived.
In the maternity ward a woman named Melanie tightly held a little baby. "This is Jade and she saved my life,” she said.
Melanie went into labor just before the tsunami hit. She lost her home and so many friends, but she has Jade. So, she feels what many have felt here -- mixed emotions.
Saved by a princess
Hannes Bergman, 18 months old, may never remember, but he was a very lucky toddler.
Somehow the young Swede ended up in a pile of rubble after the giant waves hit Phuket. According to his family members, he was spotted by a Thai princess who was staying in a nearby building.
Because she has a lot of contacts, she was able to get a helicopter to airlift him and get him to a hospital. Hannes' father, Michael Bergman, survived the tragedy and was reunited with his child.
Michael Bergman was incredibly moved, saying that the princess not only saved his son, but saved his own soul. Because, by giving him back his son, she saved that part of him, too.
Yet, as with so many of these miracle stories, there is a sad chapter as well. Bergman’s wife, Cecilia, is still listed as missing, and the princess lost her own son in the tragedy.
Kids survival skills
When you are walking down the halls of the Phuket hospital, you just keep seeing kids.
Twelve-year-old Isabelle, another visitor from Sweden, described the scene as the waves came crashing onto the Thai beaches.
She said she had been afraid of sharks. But that fear faded as she was sucked into the sea.
She said she didn’t panic, and she was looking around for someone to help her up. At one point, she saw bodies. Floating nearby, there was a round object, but Isabella couldn’t tell if it was a coconut or someone’s head. So she didn’t grab it.
Ultimately, she suffered only torn tendons in an arm. She was rescued by a passing boat. Her parents also survived, but her older sister remains missing.
All of this is very 9/11-ish. So many days after the tsunami hit, people still think that some how, some way, their loved ones are clinging to a tree or is somewhere dazed and confused wandering around.
There are stations set up in every hospital and even on some roadsides where psychologists from all over the world help the survivors.
One psychologist explained that some of the younger kids don’t even remember what happened, and they may never recall the details.
It’s the older kids who end up internalizing the trauma. Sometimes, according to the psychologists, it’s just about unloading emotions. The more the survivors talk, the more they get it out.
In the end, the most amazing story here is watching the ability of human beings to survive.
This is the worst tragedy I’ve ever seen, but the resiliency, especially of kids, is just amazing.
Children who have come through a staggering natural disaster are now laughing and playing ball in the corridors of the hospital.
The kids have it better than the adults, because they don’t have all of the knowledge that comes with being a grownup. They just know that something scary happened and here they are. Sometimes they are the luckier ones.