“On that Sunday, December 26th 2004, my whole family was at home. We were having a nice breakfast when all of a sudden the heavy earthquake shook us. All of our food fell off the table onto the floor and scattered everywhere. We all ran out of the house immediately. We were all shocked and terrified. I cried with my 18 year old son, E’en.
“Then we heard thunder, heavy wind and stormy sounds. After that we saw on the street so many people were running from all directions, they were all screaming, “Run….!! Run..!!!” The water came up onto the street. “…hurry…run…!!!” It was such a chaotic situation and everyone was panic-stricken.
“We were all stunned with disbelief about what we just heard and saw. Due to our home being in Lam Hasan Village which is a high area and very far from the sea, we thought, “How can the water come up to the street in our village??”
“We saw the street getting more and more crowded as people were running. Children were crying, adults kept screaming and running, the sky above us was suddenly became jet black. It was the first time in my life to see things like this. Then we decided to run along with those people headed to a higher place with nothing but the clothes on our backs.
“As we were running, we were hit by the huge and pitch black waves of the Tsunami, the height which was as high as the palm trees. We were all getting rolled by the waves until we hit the nearby mountain slope. I was covered by dirty mud and then fainted; apparently some people dragged me up to a safe place on the mountain. They gave me water and took care of my wounds.
“After I regained consciousness, I asked about my son and my husband because they were not with me. I got up and walked and looked for them until 5pm at which time I found my son, E’en who was still alive. I thank God for that. We hugged each other and started to cry. That night, we slept on the mountain, right under the sky. It was a very cold night and the saddest moment in my life. We remained outdoors for the next few days.
“At 6am the next morning, my son and I started to look for my husband. Without eating and drinking, we kept looking. We saw dead bodies scattered everywhere. We looked for him the whole day but did not find him. I was getting more and more worried.
“On the 3rd day we went to Lampenerut Village in Aceh Besar where there was a refugee camp and to the hospitals in the area but he did not find him. So we decided to go back to the refugee camp in the Lampenerut, and to retire for the night.
“On the way to the refugee camp, we stopped by in the front of the mosque. There, on the courtyard of the mosque, I saw my husband, Ridwan who was looking around among the people there. I knew he was looking for me and my son. We were really happy to see him alive. So we both screamed and called his name. He turned around and was shocked to see both of me and my son were saved, and he ran immediately towards us. We hugged each other with happy tears running down on our cheeks. It was the happiest moment in our family life.
“We stayed in the refugee camp in Lampenerut Village because our village was all in ruined. Only the mosque still stood firm. My house was destroyed, only the floor was left. We stayed in the refugee camp for quite a long time. We received donations of rice, instant noodles and other basic needs including clothes.
“After 3 months in the refugee camp, the officer from our village asked us to go back to our village. So on the next day we returned. We all slept in the tents in front of the mosque of Lam Hasan Village with all of our neighbors.
“We received the donation in the form of a house after 9 months. They started to build our house. But still we needed to wait and stay in a tent until the house was finish. As the days went by, we kept thinking about our lives… “When could we go back to our home and start all over again?”
“My family always prayed that we could soon get a job. My husband and I start to look for a job and for the helping fund so that we can start a small business. But we got nothing. When I almost gave up, I found this place, which conducts free training to make an embroidered bags and specialized for Acehnese tsunami victims. After the training, they hired me as one of the assembling staff. I’m so glad that my family now can have a better future and hope.
“Thanks to Laga Designs who gave me the opportunity to gain my life again with a new skills.”
And we are truly blessed to have been able to get Nurlela and her family through such a rough time in their lives. Thank you, Nurlela, for your faithfulness to Laga Handbags!