The resulting tsunami devastated fourteen countries and claimed the lives of over 230,000 people as this multi-directional force powered its way across the Indian Ocean.
The earthquake registered a magnitude of 9.3 and is the third largest earthquake ever recorded. The duration of the quake was longer than any other ever observed and triggered several more earthquakes around the planet.
The world citizenry responded with a humanitarian effort unlike any seen before and eventually donated more than $14 billion to the region, countries, and people affected.
As with all major disasters, natural or otherwise, the focused outpouring of goodwill in the form of money and commodities was reassuring; going a long way to bringing the human race together as one, even if temporary and only during times of hardship.
The other edge of the sword however, is that those causes already in need of aid become forgotten or at best; less remembered.
In 2003 I had spent much of year training for a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which I planned to undertake in February of 2004. I heard and read many stories relating to the inevitable melting of the African ice-cap and wanted to be one of the ones who could say “I saw it when…”
Filled with a sense of self-righteousness and self-imposed glory I set about seeking to summit the mountain. I knew it would be somewhat of a challenge. Not so much because of the walk up but more my own health issues interfering in the latter stages of that walk.
I have epilepsy and even though its presence in my life has not hindered me from achieving goals it is something I must consider when reaching for the sky.
I was not ever concerned about failing.
I sought ultimately to have my photo taken alongside other climbers standing next to the Uhuru sign at the summit. My concern, even though I was oblivious to it at the time, was more about success and the stories I could parlay upon my return home. Ego was playing a major factor in my decision, my training; the reward of course was talking about it.
I was in a Chicago bar when the story broke. Footage showed the force of water breaking from ocean confines like a great flow of lava, enveloping the coast and heading inland. Wreaking havoc on everything in its path; waves as high as 30 feet rode over the shore one after the other.
The destruction was immediate and the televised images left no doubt about its devastation. Over the following days the death toll would rise into numbers that were mind-boggling.
In its final tally the world was left in shock.
Sensitivity to what was happening was high; heartstrings were primed, pocket books were open, and a global urgency to help mushroomed. To assist in any way possible. Aid from everywhere began pouring in to the affected coastal areas. Media outlets flocked to the story and the tragic images of post-tsunami devastation filled our daily lives.
My commitment to climb Kilimanjaro came under self scrutiny. The realization that a selfish agenda was its foundation messed with my head and made my stomach rebel. I was set to depart in six weeks and it was becoming abundantly clear that I would have to find another outlet for my adventurous spirit.
One that married this adventurous spirit to a component of altruism.
Work days which should have been filled with administering the company database now turned to researching international volunteer organizations. With this entire process, from start to finish, the gentle hand of destiny guided me and so it was before very long a name popped onto my screen.
Within ten days of deciding to change my adventure I had gotten permission to extend my time off from work, arranged insurance and tickets, paid for my expedition, accumulated medical supplies from generous donors (200lbs worth of Tylenol, ibuprofen, Flintstones multi-vitamins etc) and began waiting for my departure flight bound for India.
I was going to work alongside doctors in a triage capacity as our band of medical specialists and me, visited small villages that had no access to normal health facilities or professionals. We were going to climb into the Himalayas and help those who had been all but forgotten in the face of one of the world’s most devastating natural disasters.
Dear Sir or Madam – Recently time has become available to me for which I would like to involve myself in one of your expeditions. The trip leaving on January 31st to India would be perfect timing for me and is an area I have visited as a backpacker many years ago. It would certainly be somewhat of an honor to return as part of a humanitarian effort. My name is Tim and here is my phone number: 773-549-4818
I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Tim
Dear Tim – We can accommodate you on the Outer Himalayas trip provided you can take care of all the paper work. Since we are just 3 weeks from our departure date you will have to apply for your visa for which I can forward you information on how and where to apply. I am attaching a copy of the detailed itinerary, application and release. Please complete and return the application, signed release and payment in full ASAP. Please feel free to call me and I will answer any questions that you may have and speed things up. Ravi Singh, Himalayan Health Exchange
Dear Ravi – I will bring my passport and photos with me to work today in anticipation of receiving the forms you spoke of yesterday in our conversation. I have looked up the consulate of India’s address and it is not far from my office. According to the website if I drop my information off in the morning I will be able to retrieve it that afternoon. I will call you today. I look forward to speaking to you soon. Sincerely, Tim
Dear Team – Welcome aboard and thank you for signing up on our ‘Outer Himalayas’ medical camp. This is HHE’s first winter camp and we are staying at lower altitudes to avoid extreme weather conditions and staying out of regions that are inaccessible at this time of the year. Based on my past experience and having lived in these mountains for most of my life, I will try to give you the best weather picture that I can as our travels take us from sea level to approximately 8,000 feet. Ravi Singh
Hi Tim – I will order the tickets and have them mailed out to you. Thanks for sending in your application packet. I will send you a receipt confirmation via e-mail as soon we receive it. As for items, some basic Tylenol or Ibuprofen or medicines like antacid will help. Please let me know if you need any help of any sort with your preps. Thanks, Ravi
Hi Ravi – My flight information looks good. I have my insurance purchased and will pick up my visa tomorrow afternoon. Tim
Hi Tim – Sounds great. I have your tickets ready and will have the agent mail them out to you via FEDEX. Talk to you soon, Ravi
Dear Timothy – This is to confirm receipt of your payment & application for the Lower & Outer Himalayas expedition scheduled for January 31-March 1, 2005.
Thank you, Himalayan Health Exchange
Dear Team – Ravi reports from India that temperatures are colder than usual and you should make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes. This includes upgrading your mid-weight jacket to heavy weight.
Thank you, Himalayan Health Exchange