A story surfaced through Citizen Journalist e-mails. June Shelley wrote CJ@MSNBC.com sharing the difficulty of looking for her ex-husband who had been living in Phuket Thailand at the time of the tsunami.
Below is her e-mail dated January 4, 2005:
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.
MSNBC producers got a hold of June and another one of Sidney's relatives to talk to her about her ordeal. An MSNBC viewer, after hearing this interview, e-mailed to volunteer his services:
I watched on MSNBC this morning at 0645 Pacific an interview with the family of 83-year-old author Sydney Shelley. They seemed at a loss on how to recover his body from Thailand. They seemed to be trying to do everything by computer. Based on my experience this will not be enough.If they are unable to travel or need assistance in traveling, I would be willing to go recover his body. I am a 51-year-old newly-retired Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with over 20 trips to Thailand between 1994 and 2001. I know my way around the country, and once there, I have friends within the Thai military to ask for help. I would need [the necessary authority and information] to recover the body and bring it home, DNA samples and dental records if he still had his teeth, and any other identifying marks to help me recover the body. I would also need the lead of the website and location of where she thought she saw the body.I would do this at no charge, only asking that my travel expenses be paid for. This is what Americans do for other Americans. —Ralph Saner, LTC(R),SF
Lt. Col. Saner's e-mail and contact information were passed along to Shelley's family. They didn't elect to use his help, as Sidney hadn't been identified yet. We here at MSNBC were amazed at how Americans, via media and the Internet, came together to volunteer and help each other out.
January 14: A happy update
June Shelley wrote us to let us know that Sidney is alive and well. He sent June a fax the day after the disaster, but she never received it.
Sidney was living in the 9th floor of a 12-story hotel and waves didn't get up that high.
"He was lucky," writes June. "People told him I had been looking for him so he finally called to say he was OK. Anyhow, all ends well and thank you for your support and interest."