Raderstorf World Wide Adventure

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Alive and Well in Bangkok!!!

Thank you everyone for your well wishes, prayers and assitance over the past 48 hours. We are all safe and sound.

I (Scott) am currently at the Dusit Thani Hotel in downtown Bangkok. The Thai government (god love them) arranged for two rooms for us and a driver to take me directly here late last night. Their parting words were, "Anything else you need, just charge to the room...". A small indication of the generosity of these beautiful people. Since I was penniless, with only the dirty beach shirt on my back and a mis-matched pair of beat up sandals on my feet that I had fished out of the ocean, you can only imagine how good those words sounded to me....

I am afraid Joellen and the boys were not so lucky. They had left on an earlier helicopter and were directed to a small town where the closest hospital was. The details are a bit sketchy since I have not talk with her directly since I kissed her as they flew off yesterday AM. From what I hear via family who have had short, staticy conversations with her, they spent a somewhat comfortable night, eating snack food in this small, remote town that was a 2 hour drive from Phuket. I believe they were driven by bus this AM (Dec 28th) to Phuket to catch a plane to Bangkok to reunite with me here. (I hope... This is all an assumtion as of now, still waiting)

But I guess I should go back to the beginning....

We arrived to the Golden Buddha Beach Christmas Eve just at sunset (6:30PM). After meeting Bert, our charming host, and being shown to our cabin, the kids ran down to the Indian Ocean to dip our toes in it's water for the first time. It was a beautiful sunset, the resort was all we imagined it would be and more. It was to be a magical stay for sure.

The first magical event happened straight away. As we watched the sun slip away, a couple with their two children came walking past us in the dusk. I struck up a conversation with him and after a few pleasentries he asked where we were from. I said Boulder, CO. He said "that's funny, my wife (who was walking up at this point) is from Colorado. Also, we have friends who live Boulder.... Francis and Elliott Higgins" I said "Wow, that's funny, they are our next door neighbors". At that point he shouted "Scott!!! It's me, Roger!!!" and opened his arms to give me a bear hug. Four years ago to the that day, He and his wife Carrie had taken over the Higgin's house for the holiday season so Carrie could get a hip replaced. We became fast friends then (as they are lovely people), had them over for Christmas dinner and spent quite a bit more time with them until they fly back home to Katmandu. Now here we were 4 years later (to the day) running into each other on a beach half way around the world from our first meeting. After being away from home for 6 weeks it was a wonderful feeling to run into some friends.

Christmas day was wonderful. Santa somehow found us so far from home and also observed our tight space and weight requirements for the rest of the trip. Three great meals... Many new friends met... Since the power goes off at 11:00 PM, most everyone is in bed before then.

At 8:00 AM the next morning (Dec 26th, 6PM Dec 25th Boulder time) I awoke to a strange feeling. An ever so slight shake... At first I thought a rodent might we chewing on our bedpost, since our cabin was an open air grass hut, not that far out of the question. I thought, "Did I just experience my first earthquake? No big deal..." It probably last 60 seconds, on and off.

I got up and almost awoke Max to go on a Kayak safari in the Mangrove swamp like we had talk about the night before. But I decided to let him sleep... Good thing I did...

I strolled down the beach to the big grass hut where the meals are served. I made myself a press pot of coffee and practiced a few very new Thai words on some of the staff for their amusement. The rest of the family showed up in staggered arrivals, enjoying Golden Buddha's delicious breakfasts. By 10:00 the boys wanted to go play on the beach. I wanted to go make some Christmas calls back to the states over my laptop. To do that I had to go to GBB's equivalent to an internet cafe, a grass hut behind the dining pavilion with a Sat dish on the side. I had already talked with several relatives when I called Lauren and Leonard Weed, to thank them for turning us on to this paradise. I had barely said "Merry Christmas" when I heard a huge boom in the direction of the ocean, just 75 yards in front of me. I could see the tops of white froth spilling over the crest of the beach. I thought "Wow, the surf is really picking up". Then I remembered the vibrations that had woke me up 3 hours before. I got a sick feeling in my stomach that was then multiplied by the knowledge that the boys said they were heading to the beach 30 minutes ago. I quickly said "Not sure what's going on guys, got to go... I'll call you back... Bye".

I ran out of the open air hut to the beach. I could see a couple people being sucked out into the open ocean as the tide drew back. This was just the small one. I recalled a lesson my brother Ross had taught me years ago while I tried surfing (in vain) for the first time, waves usually come in 3's - The 3rd is always the biggest. I looked down the beach to our cabin about 200 yards down, but the boys were nowhere insight!! I started running as fast as I could yelling their names. I got close enough to see the soggy remains of their sand castle that they were building, but no boys. I was scanning the white water that was being sucked out to sea along with the from front edge of the water when Joellen came running up for the path behind our cabin. She pointed to Roger and Carrie's cabin, two doors further down, and started running in that direction. Her mother's intuition was right... The boys had snuck away to play with the Gameboy that Nathan (their 8 year old son) had gotten for Christmas (even thought they we not suppose to). I thank God they had...

The boys came running out and joined us at the top of the beach. The water was racing away from us now and we could see the wave forming, probably a 1/2 mile out to sea. The beach now streached 400-500 yard out to sea. I could see a few fish flopping in the sand as the receding water left them behind. Then we saw it, the white crest of a massive wave breaking to the south of us moving in our direction. Roger said "I think we need to get out of here, NOW!" and started motioning for the boys to run down the path away from the ocean. Carrie and I stood there mesmerized but the unique beauty of what we were witnessing. Then the beauty turned to shear terror as my brain subconsciously calculated that this wave as going to be 20 ft high when it reach the spot I was standing on and traveling at a speed that would put it there in a matter of 10-20 seconds. Joellen and the kids (ours and theirs) had about a 100 yards head start when I turned to Carrie and said 'RUN!!'. I am positive that the next 10 secs was the fastest I had ever run in my life.... I could see Joellen and the kids at the base of steps to a home on the 'back row' of houses. I yelled "GET AS HIGH AS YOU CAN!!!" I then heard a cry from behind me that is still echoing in my mind "HELP ME!!". I look over my shoulder only to see the white foam wall closing in on me, no Carrie. I still had another 20 yards to go to reach the steps to the raised house. I gave it all I had to give. I could hear the ROAR of the cutting edge of the wave and palm trees snapping right behind me. My right foot jumped right to the 3rd or 4th step with my first bound as I heard the water crash over into the front yard of the house. Two more leaps and I was up on the front porch. I turned to look for Carrie. All I could see was a sea of grayish, green water with suitcases, lumber, tree trumps, chairs, pillows splashing about. I yelled "Carrie!!! Carrie!!!". No response. "Carrie!!!!!!!!! CARRIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Nothing. "Ohh my God... PLEEAASE help me....", I murmured to myself as I paced the front deck. What do I do, Jump in???? Where could she be??? Then I heard "Over here!" coming from a grove of palm trees to the left of the Cabin. THANK YOU GOD, I thought, she is not trapped under water.

This is where my memory get fuzzing... I think Carrie then yelled "ROGER!!!!". I then realized we had their kids huddled in the bedroom with ours, but Roger was nowhere to be found. I started yelling "ROGER, ROGER!!!" at the top of my lungs, scanning the top of the water that was now just a few feet below the 12 ft high deck. Joellen was running back and forth, helping with the search, calming the kids, checking the 2 other huts that the deck connected to trying to identify the safest place. I then caught sight of Carrie swimming with the current that was still rushing past the Cabin. All the while the other Cabins were being blown apart with sickening CRACKS and BANGS!! The impulse to vomit eased as I ran over to the steps to help Carrie up. As I gave her a hug, we heard Roger's voice coming from the right of us. I am not sure how he did it, but before I knew it he had made his way to the steps. I then noticed that he was it great pain, one of this fingers was hanging on only by a thread.

We all ran into the bedroom where Joellen and the kids where. Roger laid on the bed and Carrie, a RN, went to work on him. I gave Jojo and the boys hugs and whispered over and over "It's going to be OK...", I am not sure if I was trying to convince them or me....

Then we heard a deep male voice outside, "CAN YOU HELP ME??". I ran outside as saw a man wading shoulder deep in the muck carrying his young daughter. The sea was now flowing back to the sea. Atleast it had dropped several feet. He told me his wife and 12 year old daughter where pretty badly injuried and he need help to get to the cabin. I ran down the steps and waded into the water with my digital camera in my hand. Not the smartest move, but no time to restart - I stopped and with what I thought was a gentle toss launched the camera up onto the deck. I heard a shattering crash as it hit the ceramic covering on the deck... Oh well....

He told me his name with Michael and pointed in the direction we need to go. He left his daughter on the steps and we waded about 50 yards to the left and found his daughter, Grace, clinging to a tree. I realized I had met both of them the night before at the bar during the Christmas dinner party. She was 12 years old. I could see she was badly hurt and already drifting into shock. I thought Mike and I could make a seat with our interlocked hands and carry her to the deck, but then I realized that Michael was hurt as well - he had a broken ankle. He hid it well, but I knew he couldn't stand the extra weight. With Mike's help, I picked her up and waded back to the bedroom. Carrie took one look and said "We need more bandages, pain killers, anything...". I was going to go looking for some when Mike said "We need to get my wife!" I was embarassed that I had already forgotten what he had told me. We ran down the steps and found his wife, Mona, also clinging to a tree a another 50 yards beyond. The water as receeding now. I can't imaging what it was like for her to be there as the water was rising, not knowing how deep it would get. She was more alert than Grace, but I could see she was in great pain. I pulled her onto my back and pulling her legs forward around me I could see that most of the skin had been torn off her left foot. We got her back to the Cabin and laid her next to her daughter, who was now white as a ghost. Good thing we had Carrie's medical knowledge, I was clueless.

We were keeping our eyes fixed on the ocean, waiting for the next wave. I had thought this was the 2nd wave, and with as high as it was I knew the house we were in was not going to withstand a 3rd wave. I knew we had to get everyone up to the hill 100 yards away as soon as possible. As luck woud have it, I was wrong, That was the 3rd wave. Maybe the one that got our attention was the 2nd.

This is about all I can write now... Stay tuned for the rest of the story (along with some corrections after Jo and Ben read this)... I just got word that Jojo and the kids will be here soon, safe and sound!!!

Thanks again for all the emails, phone calls and prayers.... Please keep the many who were less fortunate than us in your prayers as well....



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