Buddhist Tsunami Memorial in Sri Lanka Displays the Tragedy & Miracles of the 2004 Tsunami by Sheri B Doyle
The news of another tsunami in Indonesia really hit me hard. Not only because I had spent time in the beautiful country last year, but also because I had spent time in parts of Sri Lanka so devastated by the 2004 tsunami. During my visit to Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, I visited the Buddhist Tsunami Memorial. Set in front of a small pond and incredibly beautiful Buddha statue donated from an artist in Japan, this little photo gallery is barely noticeable.
The unassuming exterior, looking more like a rundown house than photo gallery, drew me in. Inside two men welcomed me in and allowed me to take in the images recording the horrific tragedy this country suffered in 2004. The two men had each lost most of their family members in the tragedy, but as they explained they were not alone, nor were they the ones who suffered the most. The images on the walls of the dead villagers, the destroyed homes, the devastated children and the locals trying to survive were heart wrenching.
One of the images that caught my attention required an explanation from one of the men. It was a train beaten and damaged, completely off the track. They explained that when the first wave came through it hit the train but left the train standing in its position on the track. The locals saw this as a great opportunity to find a place of protection so they ran behind the train to wait out the storm. As the second wave hit, the train could not remain in its place and was knocked on its side. As it toppled it took 1,700 lives with it. I stood in shock, unable to imagine how the survivors have gone on to find happiness and joy in the years following. To see the destruction in the images around the museum I was amazed at the ability of the country to rebuild and recover with their hope and love intact.
The two men told me that not all that happened on that day was a tragedy. They told the story of a large white Buddha statue in a glass box close to the sea. After the tsunami people noticed the glass house had been completely destroyed, like everything else in the area, but the Buddha remained in absolutely perfect condition. They told me it was that miracle, among many others, that assured everyone that things would someday be good again.
Photo: Temple Wella Devalaya in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
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