by francine Hardaway on June 9, 2007

I may have already told you this, but I am having an evening suit hand tailored in Phuket for a ridiculously small sum by American standards ($200 and it is raw silk with a silk shell). Don’t ask why; that’s not the point of this post. What’s really important is that I saw photos of the Tsunami in the young man’s shop who is doing the suit (it is named the Armani tailors, and it is on the one street that makes up the town of Kamala Beach). Mimi_in_the_tailor

Down the street, between his shop and our hotel, is the Tsunami monument.Sunami_monument

So I asked the dude whether he saw the tsunami.

“See it,” he replied. “I was in it.” Because the tsunami came during high season in Phuket, he was at his store at 9:30 AM to open it for the foreign customers who wanted to buy or have their clothes fitted. On his way to the store, he saw the two waves go out, without understanding what was happening. Then he heard a sound that he thought might be the Muslim call to prayer.

The first wave came at 9:40, cracking the window of the shop and washing through it. It picked up one of the shelves full of fabric, and he grabbed on to the shelf and clung to it. He finished breaking the windows of the shop and floated out on the shelf into the street, twirling in circles with the water, until the wave went out. Now he knew he had only a few minutes before the second wave. He ran across the street and up to the roof of the two story building across the street.Evac_sign

The second wave came, much bigger than the first, wiping out the entire town of Kamala Beach, and stopping just short of the rooftop balcony on which he stood. When it receded, there was nothing left of his business or anyone else’s. Treedamage2

For the next eight months, everything was closed. No insurance, no money, no tourists.

But he, as he said to me, was lucky. He had Scandinavian customers who loved the quality of his clothes. They sent him money to go to Europe, where he took measurements for them and their friends. Then he went back to Phuket, made the clothes, and send them back to Europe. This, and a bank loan, is how he supported himself and re-started his business.

Three years later, he says he doesn’t think about it all the time the way he used to. And he didn’t lose any family, because his brothers were not yet at the store. He smiles. I can’t resist; I throw my arms around this prefect stranger, and he hugs me back.

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Connie Reece June 9, 2007 at 8:41 am

You twittered that you were particularly proud of this blog post, so I just had to quit reading tweets and come see for myself. And you should be proud. This was an excellent read, complete with photos–fine storytelling, and a poignant reminder that lives were changed forever by that devastating tsunami. Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

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