A few nights ago a small gathering took place to offer and share remembrance of a tragedy that affected so many lives in the not so distant past. Â The tragedy was that of the Tsunami disaster. It emanated from the most powerful earthquake in 40 years from the ocean floor near Indonesia on Dec. 26th of 2004. In all, over 300,000 lives were lost or unaccounted for. Countless others watched and learned in horror how the devastating power of nature can affect our tiny lives.
On Dec. 26th, 2006, Volunteers began to arrive in the early afternoon to transform a small recreation hall (graciously provided by the Sikh Center of O.C.) into a vivid yet somber sanctuary for an incredible and moving event. Poignant photos, ranging from a mothers grief from losing her child to the unbelievable devastation of the land and buildings ravaged along the coast, lined the near wall. Beautiful hand painted flags, of the countries that were hit by the crushing waves, were interspersed throughout. The flags were thoughtfully made by students from Leuzinger High School in Lawndale.
On the back wall hung a hand painted inspirational banner created by the Miller Childrenâ€™s hospital. Centered upon this parchment was a large globe surrounded by interlinked images of children; allowing everyone to understand that we are all connected by events that occur anywhere in the world. The banner carried well wishes and hand prints of those that created them. Soon this symbol of love and affection will make its journey to a care center in Sri Lanka.
Several tables, covered by a varying range of colored tapestries and unlit glassed candles, were arranged adjacent to the far wall. Next to this, two smaller tables were placed. The smaller stands were set up for those that sought to write well wishes and care cards to those, that to this day, still feel the devastating effect of the disaster. Throughout the hall, there were small flower arrangements made by Kanthi at the Tsunami Relief Organization which augmented the imagery within the room.
As people began to arrive they were greeted with the adorned hall which had subdued lighting with soothing heartfelt music being played. The music accompanied continuing slides of photos from the Tsunamiâ€™s aftermath. There were chairs setup for an expectation of about 35 people for the vigil. By the end, the room held well over 60.
The event began with several readings of passages written from actual survivors of the Tsunami. Ardent and heroic tales were prevalent throughout the readings as it held a captive audience. Momentary pauses by the speakers to re-compose themselves were not uncommon. As each person finished their reading, a candle was passed from one speaker to the other; passing the torch as of one unified voice. Upon the last reading, Dustin, walked to the far side of the room where the gathered assemblage joined him to light their own candles.
We all raised our candles and took a moment of silence to remember and reflect on those lost on that day. It was a moment of solace for us all. The candles were placed once again on the far table, but this time full of light, love and hope.
We continued the evening with a delicious meal prepared and served by the Sikh center with help from the volunteer crew. With every bite of the meal a fulfillment of love and energy entered our bodies. The somber mood of the room let way to an appreciation for life itself. People interacted with each other. They shared their individual experiences of that day and what has taken place since then. Others walked through the hall signing cards and mementoes, as well as viewing the photos on the wall.
We all returned to our seats soon after we ate to enjoy the remainder of the program.Â A beautiful powerpoint presentation of what happened that day was presented by Eranthi. For being a young girl of not even her teenage years she spoke maturely and lucidly about such a tough subject.
A first hand account of the aftermath and recovery efforts was given by a young college student named Sean. After the Tsunami, Sean, went to Sri Lanka as a volunteer to do what ever he could to help. He relayed tales of young children he helped at clinics.Â Ironically these same children helped him understand the power and innocence of a childâ€™s view of the world. It was something he could never forget. He recounted those days so eloquently, I donâ€™t think anyone there that night, could forget as well.
To close the evening, Elloise, a young student from Dustinâ€™s school, sang a very moving melody that captured the sentiments of the evening. Her voice elevated all of us and let us appreciate the events that had unfolded during the past few hours.
I think Supan put it best as to why the evening held so much meaning: â€œWe will keep the moments of that night in our mind so that we won’t forget all the suffering that can happen. Whatever pain we can’t solve, we live with and acknowledge; we use humane empathy to help get ourselves and others past it.â€
Thank you for such a wonderful event.
Live, love, and treasure life.