Aramcons Schumacher Photo was taken Christmas Eve in the hotel lobby (Bernd, Brooke, Lily, Karl and Peter)
Photograph contributed by Brooke Schumacher

Hello from Phuket, Thailand, finally. We are all okay. We've been through a lot, as most of you have seen on the news, but we were very, very lucky. We have been vacationing here at the Meridien since December 17th and after a wonderful Christmas, Mother Nature had a big surprise for us.

We were in our hotel on the 6th floor at 10 a.m., December 26th when the power went out, the result of the first wave hitting our hotel. We went to the windows in the hallway in time to see the second and third waves erase the beach, wash over the pools, and crash into the hotel. Through the window, it seemed surreal like something we were watching on television, but of course it was not television. The water was not a wave, but more of a wall of water 15 feet high. It washed over the roofs of the first floor rooms.

To back up a few hours, we felt a tremor about 8 a.m. Bernd was sitting on the edge of the bed and felt some rhythmic rumbles, but so subtle that he didn't say anything to me, thinking he had just had too much coffee. I was in the bathroom, and just heard the pulls on the closet doors rattling. I thought the AC was blowing on them, and likewise didn't say anything to Bernd. We were preparing to go to the beach, and we had the news on. At about 9:45 a.m. Bernd was trying to call to arrange transportation the next day to go to the zoo, and was told the man he was trying to reach couldn't come to the phone "because of the earthquake." What earthquake? It still seems impossible to believe that we didn't know the worst earthquake in 40 years, stronger than all earthquakes in the last 5 years combined, had happened 2 hours before. Anyway, that's when the power went out, and we went out to watch the rest. After the 3 big waves, the sea was calm again. The skies were clear and sunny, there was no wind. The birds were singing.

Bernd went back to our rooms right away and was able to get into the electronic door, and into the electric safe in one room (with our cash and valuables). Unfortunately, with the power out and apparently the batteries dead in the other safe, we could not get to our passports and tickets from the second room. Most others who did not return immediately to their rooms could not get in anymore because of the electronic locks. So there we were without power, water, phone or any news. With the comment about the "earthquake," we deduced that the rumbles and jingling 2 hours before must have been the earthquake, and these must have been waves resulting from it. There were many other theories, all very frightening.

Well, we waited out a night and a day at the Meridien. There was no food service at all the first day. We got some rice and fruit from that morning's breakfast buffet, still sitting out by evening. I gathered tea lights from the lamps in the Italian restaurant, and we got extra matches and water bottles from the maid's cart abandoned in the hall. It was pitch dark by 6:30 p.m. Thankfully the kids were so tired they fell asleep at that time and slept soundly until sunrise.

In the morning, the hotel set up a buffet of sorts in the ballroom with bread, cake and fruit and the lobby was a mess of people all rushing to the airport. By 2 p.m. we had gotten in the safe and had our passports and tickets. The hotel told us the basement was so flooded and damaged that they didn't dare turn on the power, and relocated us to a resort next door. We got here last night at dinner time. It is a bit like The Swiss Family Robinson's tree house. But most importantly, it has AC and food.

How are we thankful? Let me count the ways:

1) We were not on the beach. Ten minutes more and we would have been.
2) Our room was on the sixth floor.
3) The boat trip we tried to book for this day was full and so we were not on the sea.
4) Bernd was able to get us back into our rooms by thinking quickly.
5) We were all together when it happened.
6) The force of the water was not strong enough to crumble the hotel itself.
7) Our beautiful children were very brave and obedient through it all.
8) The Meridien was able to relocate us to this lovely resort next door.
9) We had the prayers of all of you back home.
10) and so many more that I can't list them.

Truly ours IS a merciful God and He has saved our family from a terrible disaster. Please say prayers of thanks for all of us. I am crying now (again) and will not try to type any more. We leave for home tomorrow afternoon, December 29th, and should be home the morning of December 30th. Santa will be visiting our home that night. We cannot be more grateful for God's blessings right now.

Aramcons Schumacher The water piled everything into a corner that used to be the hotel spa.
Photographs contributed by Brooke Schumacher
Aramcons Schumacher A boat jammed into the doorway to the kitchen.
Photographs contributed by Brooke Schumacher
Aramcons Schumacher The water piled everything into a corner that used to be the hotel spa.
Photographs contributed by Brooke Schumacher
Aramcons Schumacher The second tsunami coming in. That wave covered those red roofs of a towel hut with a green roof near the hotel.
Photographs contributed by Brooke Schumacher

The third and biggest wave washed over that roof. That wave was probably two stories high. It took off roof tiles of the first floor rooms, as it washed through the pool side of the hotel and out the back side, completely filling those rooms to the ceiling with water.

Amazingly no one at our hotel was killed. The hotel is located in a small bay, and we think the waves were about half as big as those that destroyed Patong beach right down the road. As a result, people on our beach were apparently able to outrun the first wave and get to higher ground in time.