14 years ago I stayed in this bungalow. I’m asleep at the moment but I’ll soon put on a flowery blue dress which I’ll wear while running for my life. This is my tsunami story. I was 15 years old staying with my family at the island of Koh Lanta. In the Asian pearl, Thailand. We lived in an amazing bungalow with a terrace facing the beach and a view of the beautiful and peaceful ocean. The Paradise factor was ever present. At 9.30 in the morning like many 15 year olds I prioritized sleeping over hotel breakfast. Far away from my dreams I heard the voice of a young girl. My eyes opened suddenly and in front of me stood, Sofi. My 5-year old sister tugging my arm as hard as she could. “Lisa, Lisa, come on, we have new kittens!” she said Since I am no fan of either animals or early mornings I reluctantly poured myself out of bed with the energy of a beached seal while grabbing the family camera. At this exact moment no one knew that she had just saved my life and that in a couple of minutes, I would save hers. Once out at the beach I approached my pregnant mother Anna, my father Magnus, my 1-year old brother Olle and those darn kittens. I press the rec-button to videotape my excited sister while she pets the kittens. “The dog likes the cat.” I look up from the camera to realize that there is a massive amount of people on the beach. Suddenly a wave approaches, not that high, about 4 metres. “Wave, there’s a wave.” People remain on the beach and a confused murmur spreads among the locals and turists. “Dad, imagine the people all the way out there.” The wave hits the beach. The response is shocked yet somewhat amused. This was the biggest and most forceful wave we had ever seen. So far. “The chairs are going out.” That’s when a roaring sound filled the air. The amused looks turned to the horizon showing a wall of mud and water approaching. Several metres taller than the last one. At first I struggle to comprehend what I’m seeing. What is now approaching is incomparable to the former wave and the air around us fills with complete panic. “We need to back up now.” My dad runs off with Olle, I never see where. I look for my mom. She is running around the pool heading for the jungle on top of the mountain in the middle of the island. I don’t know if I wanted to know how far from land the wave was, or if my subconscious took over but for a brief second, I look over my shoulder. And there, on the beach, I see something. Something that I will never forget. My terrified, 5-year old sister left on the beach. Alone. Her gaze frantically looking for a familiar face, being shoved around by people in panic searching for their own family member. Without hesitation, my body turns around, heading straight towards the monster in the ocean. Straight towards the wave. I reach her, grab her and throw her into my arms. I’m running. Running as fast as my legs can take me. “Is this how we die?” “Am I even running?” Every step feels like in slow-motion. The childhood nightmare, using maximum force to try to move but still not getting anywhere. When I exit the hotel area, across the road and a couple of metres across a patch of grass behind the hotel I see my mother and can feel the adrenaline fading. The screams around me become louder and I realize that the wave has hit the hotel. My legs can hardly carry me anymore and my arms can not carry Sofi any longer. “I’m gonna put you down now, and then you’re gonna run faster than you’ve ever ran before, Sofi” I tell her. I put her down and grasp her little hand. And then we run, hand in hand, for our lives heading towards the jungle. She runs as fast as her little legs can take her. Mom yells at us to run faster. We have now reached a steep, slanting edge of the jungle full of thorn bushes and panicked tourists. The only way up is already crowded and ahead of me is a winded, heavy set woman climbing extremely slowly. I place my hands on her cheeks pushing her upwards with all my strength. She will reach the top, and so shall we. The natural sounds of the jungle, the loud crickets, is now replaced by screams, crying and panic. We will survive. We fight forward in the overgrown jungle until we reach an open sand dune. The athmosphere here is tense, to say the least. “Did we survive?” Everyone is dusty and orange on their hands and feet after the intense climb. After awhile I reunite with my brother and father telling us how he was slung into the pool by a concrete lounge chair while carrying Olle. A thai man approaches with a piece of paper for the embassy, for us to sign, affirming we’re alive. “Look at him…” “He’s wounded his entire head.” People start to worry for what’s to come when a thai man tells us how he’s friend on Phi Phi told him that another wave, over 100 metres, is coming, I look up at the palm trees. Perhaps we would have a chance if we got up there. But how would we get there? Would we get dragged down by others trying to survive? I look out to the horizon imagining the sun obscured and the sky darkened by a wave that large. I imagine people pulling and tearing at each other to reach the tallest trees. My entire body starts to tingle and my fingers and toes go numb. “Why can’t I breath?” And then everything, turns black. Hours pass and hunger sets in. A man reunites with his wife and vomits out of happiness. My brother has now developed pneumonia from the humid air and is starting to having trouble breathing. I throw away a 30cm long centipede to spare my mom the sight. Since there are no toilets, people just go anywhere in the sand dunes. We’re animals, trying to survive. One questions keeps spinning inside my head, the same one that is being whispered among the trees. “Will the 100 metres tall wave hit?” We wait, exhausted, from morning to sunset. In spite of what we’ve experienced the palm trees still sway with the wind, the crickets sing and the sun moves across the sky, hour after hour. Suddenly my mom makes a decision. “We will sleep in the hotel tonight” she tells us. Olle won’t survive the night in the jungle due to the humidity. The entire family climb down the sand dune together. Resisting the avid protests from fellow survivors. My mother doesn’t waver and we don’t have a choice. In the hotel we are faced with bloody floors, palm trees in the reception, odd baby shoes and flip-flops in the hallways. Everything covered in mud. I glanse towards the beach. Our bungalow is just walls now and the concrete fence had been pulled away by the forceful water. My dad steps behind the counter in the reception and grabs one of the keys. We walk in silence as we head up as many stairs as possible. The atmosphere is dogged. It’s 10pm and it’s time to go to bed after this horrifying day. There’s no water in the faucets so we wash off our hands and feet in the toilet before crawling into the double bed, all five of us, fully dressed. My dad is on his phone, hour after hour, looking for earthquakes capable of creating another tsunami. He tells us exactly what to do if another wave thrushes into our hotel room. “We go into the bathroom, and stay there.” I fall asleep. A hard knock on the hotel door. “Tsunami is coming!” I hear my dad slam the door in the messengers face while muttering “fuck you”. I pretend to still be asleep. I don’t want my dad to have to tell us that we have to stay for Olle. “At least we’ll die together” I figured. I awake abruptly. It happened. It was all real. And time is running out. We have to get home to Sweden. We get down to the road where we see trucks filled with terrified people from others beaches and islands pass by We manage to squeeze ourselves onto one of them. The trucks are crowded and along the way we see body bags containing corpses from those who passed. Among these bags, some are just 1 meter, the size of a small child. We arrive at a hotel who has volunteered as a rescue center where we are escorted to a room the size of half a football field filled with survivors. Everyone with their own story, and fate. Some bleeding, some crying. I myself, have suppressed how I felt at this time. I can’t remember, no matter how hard I try. I sleep on the floor that night. Next to someone who has had one ear torn off. I search for my mothers hand and feel a teardrop fall down my cheek. The whole family is alive. My family. After a couple of days on the rescue center we’re escorted to an airport and an airplane designated for families that have been divided, families with young children and pregnant women. The risk of diseases spreading through the deceased bodies has made it unsafe to stay in Thailand anymore. Our flight home occurs on New Years eve of 2004/2005. When we land in Sweden fireworks go off all around the airplane. The clock has struck midnight and the new year is being celebrated, with resolutions and kisses. At the airport we are interviewed by a psychiatrist who advices us to go home and rest. A number of big brands have donated clothes filling up rooms for those of us who survived, but lost everything. We move through the rooms apathetic reaching the arrival hall and out to our taxi. Once I get home I sleep for days. “Look at the doggie.” For about two years afterwards I dreamt of the grey wall of mud roaring towards me every night. I often awoke screaming in panic and crying in fear. To this day I sometimes dream of climbing up trees and roofs trying to escape being flushed or drowned by the enormous wall of water covering the sky and blocking the sun’s light. But I’m alive. More alive than ever.