Survivor Narratives: 2004

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Consider a T-shirt…

The Story of Dwayne Meadows, survivor of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

In early November 2004, Hawai’i resident Dwayne Meadows attended a scientific conference where he purchased a commemorative t-shirt. A little more than a month later, he took a trip to Thailand for the Christmas holidays. Dwayne had rented a small bungalow right along the beach at Khao Lak. It was paradise to watch waves lap the shore only 50 feet away. 

On the morning of December 26, Dwayne was wearing the new t-shirt in his bungalow when he glanced out the window and saw that the ocean had receded. “I noticed right away that there was a white line along the horizon. It did not look really big, but I knew it was. I knew it was a tsunami right away.”

The Remains of the Gerd Not Bunglaows in Khao Lak, Thailand where Dwayne Meadows Stayed.

Dwayne’s bungalow was engulfed by 15-foot high waves. “The next thing I know I am underwater, spinning around, spinning around sideways and flipping over. Everything is happening really quickly.” Dwayne was transported inland by the water and then out to sea, travelling at least a mile. 

With debris all around him, Dwayne swam as quickly as he could toward shore. When he reached the beach, he saw the water receding again. He moved inland and advised others to follow. Soon a group had formed and made it safely to higher ground. “There were maybe 20 survivors and everyone was talking about someone else who was missing.” Dwayne spent that day rendering first aid to those in need. He was finally taken to a hospital to receive treatment for his own injuries. 

Dwayne is forever changed by his experience. He has returned to Thailand to work with charities rebuilding communities and helping people recover from the tsunami. 

The t-shirt Dwayne was wearing that fateful day is now on display at the Pacific Tsunami Museum, along with his story and pictures. Visit the museum to see the entire display on the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.