Oral history saves lives

Posted on March 1, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized

Quote of the day:

“When you get real old, honey, you realize there are certain things that just don’t matter anymore. You lay it all on the table. There’s a saying: Only little children and old folks tell the truth.”

Sarah Louise Delany.

Simeulue Island in Indonesia was about 40 miles from the epicentre of 9.0 earthquake that shook the ocean floor and sent killer tsunamis racing across the Indian Ocean before crashing onto its northern shores.

The earthquake tipped the island up 4 feet on one side, and minutes later 33-foot high waves snapped palm trees and power poles, flattened houses, and obliterated whole villages.

Yet, miraculously, only seven of the 75,000 villagers died.

AP reporter Margie Mason writes how oral history saved their lives.

Older villagers remembered their grandparents’ tales of the “semong” that had taken thousands of lives in 1907 and fled for higher ground.

“Everyone ran to the hills,” said Randa Wilkinson of the aid agency Save the Children. “They took bicycles and motorbikes and wheelbarrows and piled the kids in whatever they could get them in.”

Rebuilding their lives, villagers say they will pass the story of the semong down to future generations, even if another disaster never happens.

“I don’t want to see a lot of people die,” said Siti Marwani, 25, balancing a child on her hip. “I have to talk about it with my grandchildren.”



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