It was Christmas Eve. Neatly wrapped gifts lay piled underneath the glimmering tree. “Silver Bells” played softly in the background as our guests arrived. I remember the soft glow of vanilla candles as we all sang carols while swatting mosquitoes and dripping in sweat. (That is part of a tropical Christmas Eve.)
Then, Christmas morning arrived. As my daughters Kezia, 8, and Rachel, 3, climbed out of bed in their matching pajamas, my heart swelled with love. Their sleepy eyes opened wide once they spied the pile of presents. By evening, we were exhausted as guests had come in and out all day. My husband read the Nativity story to our daughters before kissing them goodnight. I remember thinking how blessed we are — as that night was the most peaceful night I’ve ever experienced.
Early the next morning, something stirred me to wake. I had a strong feeling that we should go out for a drive. By 6:30 a.m., we were in the car with a batch of Christmas cookies to deliver to some colleagues—heading towards the mountains to deliver the goods.
At first I thought we had a flat tire… then, all four tires were bouncing up and down.
When my husband jumped out to see what was wrong, he noticed
everyone was out of their homes and lying flat on the ground.
No one could have guessed that the world’s second largest earthquake was happening — creating a tsunami that would kill hundreds of thousands of people, displace millions more, and tear cities to the ground.
Soon all of us were out of the car with our chins pressed against the rough asphalt. Rumbling thunder sounds boomed above our heads. I looked for cracks in case the ground suddenly swallowed us up.
After what felt like an eternity, the shaking stopped.
The rumbling died away.
Slowly, we climbed back inside the car to continue our journey to check on our friends. Everyone we went to see was safe but very distressed and frightened.
As we headed towards home from our visits, I saw that the sky ahead of me was jet black. It seemed like a huge storm was stirring at that end of town.
Then, I saw people screaming, panic-stricken, and running from that direction. Cars and motorbikes zoomed by. There were children screaming for their parents.
Everything was chaotic.
“Go back! Head towards the mountains!” cried one of our friends above the clamor as he ran towards us.
I spun the car around and floored it. I thought it was the end of the world.
We finally reached the mountains and remained outdoors for the next eight hours. When I returned later that evening, half of Banda Aceh was gone. The town was in ruins.
I couldn’t believe my eyes — dead bodies hung on trees and front gates.
My house was destroyed. Everything was gone…everything.
With support from various donors including Saddleback Church of Lake Forest through Roy van Broekhuizen, YDS was able to continue its vision. By recruiting more personnel and re-establishing its programs in Banda Aceh, YDS was able to help young families, like mine, be able to rise from the ashes, deal with the horrific grief, and find the strength to extend a helping hand to others.
Who is Hanna?
Hanna is the project manager overseeing sewing activities for Laga Designs International, Inc. in Banda Aceh, Sumatera, Indonesia. She is committed to the vision of educating Acehnese women to increase their self-confidence and skills, which will in turn help them regain financial independence.