26, 2004, a massive 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia created a
devastating tsunami that struck 12 countries around the Indian Ocean. Over 250,000 persons lost
their lives and over 2.3 million became homeless in a matter of minutes.
In the months following the tsunami, my disaster research team
interviewed hundreds of survivors in Thailand. Many survivors told us that
they were fearful about future tsunami threats. They said they did not
have a good understanding about the warning signs of a tsunami, how to
evacuate, or how tsunamis form. We also were told that they did not
realize how millions of people around the world pulled together to help
those affected by the tsunami.
Something special happened when we informed them about these topics.
Their fears diminished, and they thanked us for sharing this
information. Hearing about the worldwide response made them feel proud
and thankful. Most said they had not heard the information we shared
with them. Not having the information is a result, in part, of their
losing homes and possessions (e.g., television and radio) due to the
tsunami and not having insurance to recover. I wondered how we might
apply these findings in order to inform large numbers of people in
In March 2006, I came up with an idea to build an educational museum
in an area especially hard hit by the tsunami. A museum could
help people understand the event that changed so many lives by showing how
the Indian Ocean tsunami formed, showing how the tsunami affected the
environment, and how foundations, organizations, businesses, and
individuals around the world rallied to help. Exhibits in the museum also
could discuss the warning signs of a tsunami and how to evacuate, and the
new tsunami warning system being built in the Indian Ocean. And, the
museum could show hope, resilience, and the human spirit, and help people
move forward with their lives.
Continue to Creating the Museum →
Photos by David N. Sattler