By TANGELA JOHNSON
Imagine being awakened by a climbing death toll in your
country instead of your alarm clock.
Dec. 26, 2004, Amrith De Soysa, a 19-year-old, sophomore business and
entrepreneurship major, learned first hand that in an instant, life as you know
it can change forever. De Soysa said he was sleeping
when his mother awakened him with the news: an unforeseen, unpredictable
tsunami had hit the island of Sri Lanka, and the damage was serious.
“We were missed by a half-mile,” De Soysa
said of the attack to his beloved home. He and his family are from Colombo, Sri
Lanka’s capital, and they never expected to spend their holiday like this. But
it could have been worse. With a really calm and positive demeanor, De Soysa explains in spite of how bad it was,
it could have been worse.
“My parents wanted us to spend Christmas in a hotel where
80 percent of the people died,” De Soysa said. “My
brother and I fought them so we wouldn’t have to go.”
He feels such a tragedy is another part of his life in
Sri Lanka, since he has witnessed bombings from the civil war, a war this
island has endured for a quarter of a century. After the storm settled, De Soysa walked through villages and witnessed the piles of
dead bodies and orphaned children. A sight that may have shaken some, seems to have humbled De Soysa,
who is neither depressed nor bitter as he tells his story.
Though the horrors of that day still affect the
inhabitants of this island two years later, he feels that there is still no
place like home.
“I love going home, even though it is a really long
flight, and I will probably live there after I graduate and get a job,” De Soysa said.
De Soysa is certain, although
New Orleans is experiencing challenges in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this
tragedy is very different.
“No one knew the tsunami was coming, and in a third world
country, there is no money,” De Soysa said.
The one thing that kept him in good spirits was the
volunteer work. He was hands-on in assisting those in need and he and his
family donated money to support the Red Cross. He does not wear a worried face
or a melancholy mood, but instead is thankful his family did not experience the
devastation that could have been. Also,
he does not fancy himself to be a survivor.
“The damage was unbelievable,” De Soysa
said. “All of the stagnant water has caused many diseases, and a lot of people
don’t have money for medicine. The seafood was ruined by the toxicity of the
water. It really makes me appreciate life. It shows me nothing in life is
Displaying an amazing poise as well as the wisdom of an
elder, this teenage sage simply describes his perspective of the entire
“It’s a natural disaster. You can’t control it; it’s