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Love blooms in tsunami’s aftermath

Karmila Wati and Samsol Winda met in a refugee camp after the deadly tsunami. On Monday, they toasted their wedding, a welcome first for the camp for victims still traumatized by the Dec. 26 disaster.
WATI, WINDA
Karmila Wati, right, and her husband, Samsol Winda, emerge from a tent Monday during their wedding at a refugee camp in Indonesia. The wedding ceremony, a first for the camp, brought rare smiles to the faces of people still traumatized by the Dec. 26 disaster that killed more than 125,000 people and left 400,000 homeless.Achmad Ibrahim / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Karmila Wati and Samsol Winda met in a refugee camp after the deadly tsunami. On Monday, they toasted their wedding under a leaky United Nations tarp.

The wedding ceremony was a first for the camp for victims still traumatized by the Dec. 26 disaster that killed more than 125,000 in their home province of Aceh and left some 400,000 homeless.

“This is so unbelievable. I never thought I’d meet my husband in a refugee camp,” said Wati, 21, sitting next to her husband in their tent. “It must mean that good things will come after all this tragedy.”

Winda, 25, said the wedding was a sign God was looking out for them. “This is the fate from Allah,” he said.

A steady stream of guests looked into the newlyweds’ tent, which was decorated to look like a traditional Acehnese wedding house, with red and yellow wall hangings and pillows, and colorful rugs on the ground.

The newlyweds wore traditional Acehnese wedding clothes — Wati in a yellow dress with a golden, spiked crown; Winda in a black and yellow coat, a green hat and a small sword known as a rencong at his side.

‘Everyone has found their spirit’
For the 50 guests — mostly dressed in donated T-shirts and rubber sandals — the party was a brief respite from their own problems and a glimmer of normalcy in the badly damaged provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

Karmila Wati looks in a mirror before her wedding inside a tent at a refugee camp in Mata Ie, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, Monday, March 14, 2005. The wedding ceremony was a first for the camp and brought rare smiles to the faces of people still traumatized by the Dec. 26 disaster that killed more than 125,000 in their home province of Aceh and left some 400,000 homeless.(AP Photo/ Achmad Ibrahim)Achmad Ibrahim / AP

“I’m very happy they can do this,” said Abdul Salam, 42, a leader of Rima Jeune village, whose residents now live in the camp. “Everyone has found their spirit today and hopefully things will get better.”

“This ceremony helps us forget everything we have been through,” said Dewi, 28, as she washed dishes from the party. It was gratifying to see someone happy for a day, said Dewi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

Winda’s father, Muhammad Nur, 45, an unemployed construction worker, said he had to borrow money to pay for the wedding.

But he said he felt a responsibility to let the ceremony go ahead — especially since his three other daughters died in the tsunami.

“This is my only daughter so we had to do this no matter what the conditions,” he said. “I’m sad because I have to do this in a refugee camp. But I’m also happy because I can make people feel good.”