NFL Players Live-Blog Tsunami Relief Visit – Day 3

Day 3 – Kurt Warner and Amani Toomer Visit Indonesia
J. Ethan Medley, NY Giants
February 13, 2005

Sunday morning got off to an early start for almost everyone in out tent, as the combination of humidity, mosquito netting and time zone differences had everyone unable to sleep past 4am. Amani, Kurt, Yola, and I grabbed chairs outside in an effort to take advantage of the only palatable temperatures that the day would offer. At 4:30, the calls to mosque sounded out from all sides of town and continued for over an hour. Four hours later, the day got off to an even shakier start, as a fairly mild, but sustained earthquake shook our camp. Not long after, the vibrations returned during aftershocks. We were told later that the quake registered in the 5’s on the Richter Scale. It was enough to shake our tents and chairs, but not quite big enough to cause any damage. Our first activity of the day was a football demonstration at the University of Banda Aceh Park with 60 boys and girls from a local internally displaced people (IDP) camp. Sharing a field with several cows and numerous dragonflies, Kurt, Amani taught the boys how to throw and catch the football, while Brenda and Yola did the same with the girls. The demonstration caught the attention of many passers-by who stopped to watch the action. After two hours of play, and a quick snack with the kids, we were taken to a nearby restaurant to enjoy some local fare.

While yesterday’s trip to the coast was sobering enough, today’s afternoon ride through the port area of Banda Aceh showed us the worst damage we have seen so far. This area of town was densely populated and well-developed, but today it is almost all rubble. The tsunami destroyed absolutely everything in its wake: buildings, cars, boats, bridges and road surfaces. Even the land itself has been stripped bare in most places.

We have heard many sad stories during our time here. While walking near the coast this afternoon, we were greeted by a woman who was heading back towards town. She asked our translator who we were, and through him she told us that she lost her husband and both children. Pointing to where her house used to stand, she explained that she survived by grabbing hold of a floating mattress, only to be carried approximately 10 kilometers inland. She has returned to her property every day since the disaster to remember her family. The power of the water left behind numerous baffling images that remain today. During our drive, we came upon an enormous fishing boat that still rests on the damaged building where the wave left it, while another large fishing vessel still stands several blocks inland. It is obvious that five weeks after the disaster, the cleanup process is still far from finished and military trucks continue to transport remains that are found as more rubble is cleared.

Among the damaged buildings in town is the Aceh Sports Center, where soccer players, boxers, fencers, martial artists, and weight lifters train for the regional Olympics. While the structure still stands, the floor was ruined by the flood, preventing many of the athletes from being able to practice. We paid a visit to the center and met many of the coaches and athletes. They explained that they lost many of their teammates and friends, and thanked us for bringing attention to the center, which they hope to have the resources to repair in the near future. Before leaving, the athletes asked Kurt and Amani to demonstrate the game of football to them. Some of them were adamant about trying to perfect the spiral of their throws, and with practice, got much better. As a parting gift, we left them with the football that drew so much interest.

That was supposed to be the end of our day, but after returning to our camp, we were told that there were elephants down the street assisting in the cleanup. A quick drive took us to the site in time to witness one such elephant pull a car out from between two houses. The car was water-logged but relatively undamaged and had been stuck since the tsunami. With a low roar, the elephant made easy work of the vehicle, dragging it up the muddy incline so quickly that one surprised worker had to jump out of the way in order to avoid being hit.

Tomorrow is our last day in Banda Aceh, as we will travel back to Jakarta in the evening. From there, Kurt and Brenda will head back home, while Amani, Yola and I will head to Sri Lanka, where we will be joined from the Pro Bowl by Kansas City Chiefs fullback, Tony Richardson for the final five days of our trip with the World Food Program (WFP).

Set-up in 1963, WFP is the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2003, WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries, including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. Currently, WFP is helping to feed more than 850,000 people in Sri Lanka, with a large logistics network spread throughout the country. For more information on their efforts in Indonesia and throughout the world, please visit www.wfp.org.

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