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Silent hero saves 250 lives
14 January 2005

Chennai: The sun rose over the horizon of the Bay of Bengal and greeted the dawn. Who knew what God had ordained in his plans for that day? Perhaps the animal kingdom had an instinctive inkling; because in retrospect the scientists, fishermen and tribals have now recognized certain signals that were apparent, but ignored.

The tsunami thundered onto the tranquil shores with purposeful force and indiscriminately snatched the lives of unsuspecting coastal families involved in daily routines, and pilgrims walking on the beaches after their sacred Sunday rituals.

Dr. Priscilla and her husband Samuel, formerly the Coordinating Disaster Management for PREPARE in India, were welcoming a relaxing day off at their residence, which was attached to the Porayar hospital. But the tapestry of change was about to alter their lives, along with the families of nearly 200,000 people who would never see another sunrise.

About 10 a.m. a group of people from Tranquebar ran to Dr. Priscilla pleading for assistance for four children who were in a state of asphyxia. Frantic explanations of a tidal wave deluging the coast of Southern India sounded ludicrous and delusional; but when 400 patients converged on the hospital suffering from shock, broken, torn and removed limbs, and open wounds from which blood flowed freely, Dr. Priscilla and her husband knew something horrific had happened.

Dr. Priscilla attended to the wounded at the hospital; her husband Samuel rushed to the villages, and without any thought for his own life and safety, began sifting through debris and unstable constructions to save as many lives as he could. Samuel was qualified in disaster relief management and put his experience to use even though the utter chaos seemed to have the upper hand and control.

With the local youth by his side, and time an illusory emissary, Samuel tirelessly worked all day and into the night to rescue people from collapsed buildings, shelters and tidal overflows. Between them they saved 250 lives, and were the example that day for practical rescue efforts and selfless service.

This is just one of the many heart warming stories of compassion and courage that has emerged from the disaster; and the world will honour such vigilant and simple heroes. Furthermore, it can be expected that as families share these stories of ancestral bravery, new legends will be born for future generations.

Samuel is now a consultant for the government and NGO’s on rural development. Dr. Priscilla has been in private practice at Porayar Hospital since 1995.