Notebook: Tsunami – One Year After

CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen spent weeks covering the Asian tsunami. A year later, he reports on progress in the area.

Day One
Banda Aceh, Indonesia

I'm standing on a slab of what was once a house. Only the garage walls are still standing. Written in English, on these walls, a kind of graffiti of memory.

"Knocking on the door to heaven."

"Losing U"

"26 Dec. 04. Sunday Morning Call. Everybody loses."

And there is one graffiti of memory that the man who once lived here, the father and head of his family, needs to explain. But first, let me begin again with a different thought: I do not, and in many way hope I never will, understand the resilience of people. I hope I never will because I never want to go through the experience. Not of a tsunami, or any natural disaster. How many of us would ever really understand what it is like to lose not just loved ones, but a whole family. I don't.

Now, to the last set of words on the wall. Namali Fakli explains, because it is a list. He reads the names.

A. Raysid, his father. Nurhayati, his mother. Kisnan, a brother. Rina, a sister. Fatri, his wife. Rosa, a younger sister.

I don't need to tell you what this is a list of. I didn't want to ask Mr. Fakli either, but I did and it was — the list of those in the house on Dec. 26 who did not survive.

Mr. Fakli and his three year old daughter lived because he grabbed her, and clutched her as he climbed a tree. He said the things people say as we talked. He would always remember them. He still can't believe it. He must continue for his daughter's sake.

Then he said he has remarried. It is worth noting that there have been a lot of people who remarried after the tsunami, because they lost their husbands or wives, or they lost whole families. But they are going on. They started with what was left and decided to rebuild a new family. Think how hard that is compared to just rebuilding a new house.

Think of the memories you must put aside. Not forget, but at least let them live, instead, somewhere in the way back of your mind.


But there is more. It seems, we are told, there is a bit of a baby boom in Banda Aceh. People must believe in the future to have a baby, must believe that they can provide, must believe that tomorrow is, somehow, better than today. Is that not the very definition of resilience?

The reality is that Mr. Fakli, like every survivor here, speaks to me from the other side of an experience I have never had and he never expected. The rest of us will only know it from the outside, which is to say: we will never know it at all.