Ed Rogers ’87 was on vacation
on the southern coast of Sri Lanka with his wife, Betsy, and sons
Eddie Jr. and Wyatt when the Dec. 26 tsunami hit the island nation.
Rogers, the director of structured equity finance at Deutsche Securities
Limited in Tokyo, offered these recollections of that day:
The first wave
“Around 8:30 a.m. Betsy took Eddie down to swim in the kiddie
pool. Standing on our fourth-floor balcony, I observed the ocean
pull back about 30 yards into the seabed. Strange, I thought. After
watching a few minutes, I put Wyatt in the stroller and went downstairs
to speak to Betsy. When I reached ground level I had missed a somewhat
larger than normal wave land on the beach. Eddie was bouncing around
in the water and Betsy was chatting to an English gentleman, who
later mentioned there had been a large earthquake off the coast
of Indonesia that morning. The penny dropped, and I realized that
the wave was the tsunami effect from the earthquake.”
The second wave
“Back in the room about 9:30, we packed essentials in two
knapsacks. We changed from sandals to sneakers in case we were faced
with running or climbing. From our balcony we watched the second
wave land. It covered the entire beach area. We had missed our window
of opportunity to leave. If we left, we would potentially be caught
in open flat road, miles from any significant rise in elevation.
If we stayed, we had to consider if the hotel foundation might give
way. We decided to stay.”
The third wave
“We prepared for the worst, while praying for the best.
I thought the waves might get much bigger, and people would by choice
or necessity head to the fourth (highest) floor of the hotel. From
our balcony we saw the third wave building 500 yards offshore. Local
fishermen, who were securing their boat to palm trees by the beach,
began to run for their lives. Seven or eight of them were caught
in the worst of the wave. We watched them get knocked over and carried
into trees and other solid objects as they were swept inland. Hotel
staff and guests still at ground level ran for the stairs in the
“After a few minutes of watching and listening to what was
going on at the ground-floor level, I went to find the hotel manager
and offered to help. As people were being swept past the hotel,
there might be a chance to pull some of them out of the water.
“The narrow fourth-floor hallway was packed with 50 to 60
people and their luggage. At the top of the stairs I helped a Sri
Lankan family bring up a grandmother in a wheelchair. The top of
the stairs became a bottleneck as many guests were trying to bring
packed suitcases with them to safety. There was certainly no room
for 200-odd people and their luggage on the fourth floor.
“I could see into the inner courtyard and to the back of
the hotel, where people were being swept past by the wave. Staff
pulled gardening hoses off the second-floor terrace and were using
them as lifelines – throwing hoses to people caught in the
tsunami. At this point the water was probably 20 feet above sea
level, and had risen to about 10 feet above the ground level of
“This was the high point of crisis in the hotel. Hotel staff
were trying to pull fishermen out of the swirling waters. The guests
I could see moving from the second to the third to the fourth floor
were in a state ranging from heightened concern to clear panic.
People were calling out the names of missing children and spouses.
“Betsy took about 20 people into our room, mostly women
and children. The small children were clearly panicked. We had no
idea when the water would stop rising, or if more waves were on
the way, and there was nothing left to do but sit out the event.
We discussed the foundation and our chances of survival if we had
to climb on the roof.
“So at that stage, we simply had to sit and wait out the
water. Having done what was possible to prepare for the worst, we
just hoped and prayed for the best. For the next four hours we watched
the sea recede, and then advance again, on a much smaller scale.
We debated whether the worst was past, or yet to come.
“The first-floor lobby and dining area were destroyed. Glass
walls were smashed to bits, and much of the ground-floor furniture
was swept away. The waters carried items through and past our hotel
for a distance of approximately one mile.
“After reading this story, many people have asked me for
donation suggestions. My wife and I are donating to Save the Children.
Save the Children has been operating for over 20 years throughout
the entire area affected by the tsunami. They provide short-, medium-,
and long-term disaster support for children and their families.
Short-term relief includes distribution of ‘family packs’
with tents, blankets, household utensils, books – all of the
items needed for survival if one’s entire house has vanished.
Also of critical importance is their work in refugee camps to register
missing children and reunite them with any surviving family members.
In the medium and long term, Save the Children works with local
communities to provide schools and sanitation. Save the Children
usually provides the tools, material and guidance needed for construction
work; the local communities supply the labor.
“I have spoken with the COO of Save the Children and the
preliminary estimates indicate the organization will need approximately
$250 million [in U.S. dollars] over the next five years to address
the effects of the Bay of Bengal tsunami. Over $50 million is needed