Tsunami orphans show resilience, courage
Nagapattinam, December 26
The entire population here, 325 km from Chennai, mourned 6,065 persons who died in the tragedy and observed a minute’s silence at 9.17 am, the moment the tsunami struck here.
Fishermen stayed away from the sea and women wailed, recalling the horror that snatched away their near and dear ones.
But the exception were the 99 tsunami orphans who initially broke down while planting saplings at a function at the Tsunami Memorial Park, which was inaugurated here at the District Collectorate, but soon regained their composure.
Nirmala (15), a Class XI student who stood third in her matriculation examination despite losing her parents and four sisters in the tragedy, said: “I do miss my family but one has to accept reality. The past is gone and I have to look to the future. I want to join the IPS and work for the poor and exploited women.”
Ten-year-old S. Mahendran, who also lost his parents, one brother and two sisters and stays in the same Anna Sathyai Government Orphanage, felt sad and cried when they were taken on a tour of the area ravaged by the tsunami.
“I do not want to be a fisherman like my father. I want to be a President like Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who hails from Tamil Nadu.”
The commemoration started at 9.17 am with the inauguration of the park and thousands of people led by District Collector Dr J. Radhakrishnan placed wreaths at the a stone column built in the memory of those who died.
An Ashoka Pillar, which was earlier erected in the memory of Kargil heroes at the beach but was gobbled up by the sea and later recovered, has been reinstalled at the park.
The clock on the memorial, a stone obelisk, had stopped at the time the tsunami had struck.
The 6,065 saplings, which were planted for each of those who died, included rose, chrysanthemums, palms, marigolds and hibiscus.
After releasing three books on the rehabilitation and development work done after the tsunami, Dr Radhakrishnan said: “Our heads bow before the tsunami victims and we pledge to overcome the tragedy and emerge stronger.”
An hour later, laying wreaths at a memorial at nearby Keechankuppam seafront, where more than 1,700 bodies were buried in mass graves, he said: “We have emerged stronger after such a big tsunami and we are prepared for anything in future, but we hope only good things will happen henceforth.”
At Akkarapettai, the fishing village and harbour that was the worst hit, women mourned for the dead. At Vailankanni, around 2,500 persons gathered on the beach to pay homage to the shopkeepers and pilgrims who died. A special all-religion service was held near the shrine of Basilica.
Ram Khedekar and his wife Ratna from Navi Mumbai, who paid homage to those who died, said: “Last year we were here. We were inside the shrine and were saved from a certain death as we were planning to have a dip in the sea a little later. We will come here every year for as long as we live.”
In the evening, a prayer to mourn the dead was held at the Nagore Dargah — the resting place of Hazrath Syed Shahul Hamid Badshah and his nearest family — which dates back to 16th century.
More than 300 persons, a majority of them women and children, were buried at the Dargah last year.
Moinuddin, a local resident, said: “The tsunami has bonded all people here more closely and firmly as people, irrespective of their faith, had taken shelter here.” A year on and Nagapattinam, which was the worst hit in the country, recording 76 per cent of the deaths in the mainland, is on a fast road to recovery.