"Whenever an earthquake or tsunami takes thousands of innocent lives, a shocked world talks of little else." (Anne M. Mulcahy)
In the Christian world, December 25 is a time of great rejoicing and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is by far the most festive time of year, marked by parties, church services, and giving gifts. It is also a popular vacation time, as families use the breaks given by offices and schools to travel, often to exotic destinations. That is why so many of those who witnessed the great tsunami of 2004 were not native to the areas struck, but had traveled to enjoy the sun during the dead of winter. Most of them slept soundly on Christmas night and woke up the following morning with plans to enjoy a fun day of playing along white beaches or exploring dense jungles. For many, it was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime, but for everyone in the region, it would instead become a fight for survival.
Around 8:00 a.m. on December 26, a massive earthquake registering 9.1-9.3 on the Richter Scale struck off of Sumatra, Indonesia, making it the third strongest earthquake ever recorded by seismographs. On top of that, the earthquake shook for nearly 10 minutes and generated incredibly strong tsunami waves, some of which topped out at over 100 feet, as they crashed inland in places like Thailand, India, and Indonesia. Given the great distances traveled, some of the tsunami waves didn't reach shore until seven hours after the earthquake, but thanks to the element of surprise, people in the region had virtually no warning of what was coming. With more energy than that generated by every weapon and bomb used during World War II combined, the tsunami waves pulverized entire towns and swept away hundreds of thousands of people across Southeast Asia.