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Tsunami Taught Me How to Cry
By Said Muniruddin

Never did before in my life I cried very often until I witnessed what happened in Banda Aceh post-tsunami attacked on December 26, 2004. I returned from Jakarta to Aceh just only to make sure that my family and friends were all fine. However, I found many things contrary to what I expected. Daunting things shocked my heart.

After my plane landed in Medan on December 29, 2004, I took a bus to Banda Aceh. It would be easier to go home by a bus since I brought a lot of food supplies. Along the way home, I saw many vehicles passing on the street very quickly to the opposite direction of Banda Aceh. It never happened before in Aceh that the street was so crowded with buses, trucks, vans and many types of cars at night as though they were trying to escape from something.

At the same time, inside the bus where I was in, passengers were busy talking that the city of Banda Aceh was being attacked by a very dangerous disease: Cholera! (which was later only a rumor). Without realizing it, I had spent 10 hours in the bus. This meant that I would soon enter my destination city, Banda Aceh. What would I see then?

“Oh my God! How come the city was so messy?” Wherever I put my eyes, there were extensive structural damages. Buildings were amazingly destroyed. People’s residences were badly swept until it were flat on the ground. Roads were totally covered by black sandy water, while garbage fully dominated almost all areas. I could see obviously numerous death bodies lying on the streets, hanging on the trees, sinking in the water, and trapped underneath wood rubbish. In addition, the bodies were difficult to be recognized since their physical appearance had absolutely changed; getting bigger and turned black. Moreover, everybody could smell the aroma spread out by corpses all over the affected places. These panoramas were completely worse than the results caused by the World War II. My tears began to fall.

Then I continued my “tourism trip”. I rode a motorbike to Komplek Polayasa Kajhu, 7 Kilometers to the northern part of Banda Aceh, where my house was located. I faced the fact that all things alongside the way were vanished. Districts have changed into desert. I could hardly recognize where my village was. I walked through the remaining flood and crossed over ruined landmarks. Finally, I found my former house. The remains were only some walls of the house and several dirty clothes. Again, I poured out of tears. I wasn’t upset because of loosing our properties. I cried since my dearest sister in law died here. Similarly, my beloved twin nephews disappeared here. Meanwhile, some other family members were also injured after fighting for life here. All nice memories, jokes and laughter were buried under the ruins.

For us, though tsunami has taken our belongings: “life must go on”. I believe that Allah has certain aims for his creatures as long as shalat and shabar taken as rescuers. God is the owner of every single thing and who has the ultimate right to decide when to give and when to take it back. *****

(This is a writing assignment during the Pre-Academic Training [PAT] of Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program [FF-IFP] at PPB-UI Salemba, Jakarta: September 2004 – March 2005).