I can’t stop thinking about this guy.
He’s dead now, this guy.

From news.com.au: 'Doomed ... The man struggles to keep his head above water as he is buffetted by the currents. His body was found a kilometre away / Hellmut Issels'

Look at him, so calm, amidst the fury. But the water looks so clean, doesn’t it? So much like the pure salt surf that I’ve always loved. Who was he? Did he make his living from the sea, there in Phuket? Was he a dive instructor, or a bartender? Did he rent umbrellas and chairs on the beach? Was he a tourist himself, from somewhere else entirely?
He looks so calm.
I’ve always had a relationship with water. My brother died in the water, and I spent all the years after that, in my subarctic hometown, snorkeling back and forth in that same water from a couple of weeks after the ice broke up until well after the leaves had all fallen. Looking for something.
I almost froze to death, on purpose, naked out on the ice of that same lake in the snow, one stupid teenage New Year’s Eve long ago after I’d fought with my girlfriend, who I thought I loved enough to die for.
I’ve always been drawn into the water, in the sea, wherever I’ve been, from Wales to Fiji, when the waves were big. Stood there, always, pounding my chest, literally, and shouting into the teeth of it. Challenging it. You can’t kill me, I was saying, every time. I love you, you can’t kill me. Your power is my plaything.
Maybe this guy felt the same way, as he rode the chaos, as the tsunami washed him over the pool, across the grass, into the focus of some tourist’s camera. Confident, exhiliarated.
But he died.
Him and what, today? 60,000 80,000 120,000 150,000 other people.
Words are.
Update : Apparently, he’s alive![login:vanitas password:vain]
Mike Diack gives us more information inside. Thanks, Mike! It’s silly, but somehow this guy became iconic for me of the whole incomprehensible tragedy. Holy sh-t. He’s alive.

Thoughts That, If Not Deep, Are At Least Wide, Uncrappy

Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. Stav – once again, so much better said than I could have mustered. Now I’m all choked up and have to go back to some tedious work I have to finish for God-knows-what unimportant reason.

  2. How do you fit the one and the many in one poor miserable human brain? How do you make sense of the fact that you’re sitting here reading about mass death, watching it, looking at a picture and thinking thoughts about it, and that guy… isn’t? Lifey lifey, my mother-in-law says. And I’m listening to Susan Sontag’s voice on the radio talking about life and death and art. And I’m reading EmptyBottle, and grateful for it.
    “People get used to anything,” says Susan (apropos of Sarajevo). “Life goes on, except… it’s Russian roulette, it’s a shooting gallery, you could get killed at any moment.”

  3. tsunami

    You already know what happened: Vichaar, Jay, Daily Kos and The Command Post are keeping lists of organisations accepting donations. Here are a few of them:American Red Cross in conjunction with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (donate onli…

  4. Some good news on the guy in your post in the photo. Via FilePile — he survived. According to the Herald:
    “The hapless man captured on the front page of the Herald engulfed by a raging wall of water in the resort of Phuket has survived.
    “Contrary to the reports that the body of an unidentified man has been found a km away from the beach devastation, the photographer who took the shots that flashed around the world yesterday reported his astonishing escape.
    “‘Just a few seconds after I took this photo, he was pulled up out of the water by a man from a porch. Thank God,’ Hellmut Issels said.”
    That said, a friend from the Hash House Harriers organization in Vancouver, now living in Phuket, emailed me from Kamala Thailand saying:
    “It is now 72 hours since the tidal wave struck Phuket Island on Boxing Day morning at around 10.00am local time. Over 1,000 people have lost their lives in Thailand and the worst hit areas have been Phi, Phi Island, Phuket West coast, Krabi, Khao Lak, Phang Nga. Many who died were tourists who were here for Christmas holiday either early on the beach or in hotels on the ground floor when the waves struck. Many people sucked out to sea.
    “It is in a way fortunate that the day before was Christmas day and many people were celebrating until late and still in bed when it struck, otherwise there would of been many more deaths. And thank God that the school was empty, as it is gone!
    Kamala is 80% gone, power sporadic, no mobile coverage or phonelines, clean up continues, Club not hit too hard,just waterlogged and dirty now. First floor is very messy. Many many locals dead, very surreal. All pitching in to help. Community comes together in times of chaos. No emergency training could have come out better coordinated than happened spontaneously here. Most local businesses destroyed. We are all very lucky. We had about 10 minutes warning, and got to the roof of the Club just in time to see a wall of water sweep around it, carrying cars, people, fridges nothing could withstand it. Absolutely awesome display of power.”

  5. That is fantastic. Thank you, Mike, for the update.

  6. I have been visiting Kamala Beach for 15 years and am anxious to here of any news about Sunram and his wife, friends of mine, who ran Bank’s Bar. Also the people who ran Kamala Seafood restaurant. I can’t seem to find a website that offers information on the thai people. I also have a thail friend who lives in Bang Tao and would appreciate any information regarding the damage there.

  7. i understand that you are angry, but everybody is dealing with this. you are not special in this feeling and so you need to come to grips, bury your dead, and go on with your life. (and yes, i AM speaking from experience)

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