Prayers and messages of remembrance commemorate the disaster

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 26, 2005 09:00 AM
Credit: Landov

Last Dec. 26, the most powerful earthquake in 40 years ruptured the sea floor off Sumatra, causing a tsunami that cost more than 200,000 people their lives.

It was a day that was not forgotten in the area, or in the world, on Monday.

In Indonesia’s Aceh province on Sumatra island, the closest land to the epicenter of the magnitude-9 earthquake, the president sounded a tsunami warning siren to start a minute’s silence at 8:16 a.m. – the moment the first wave struck.

“It was under the same blue sky, exactly one year ago that Mother Earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, the Associated Press reports. “The assault began with a massive earthquake but … that was only a prelude to the horrific catastrophe to come.”

A silence was also observed in Thailand and Sri Lanka, where President Mahinda Rajapakse joined ceremonies near the site where the raging waves swept a passenger train from its tracks, killing nearly 2,000 people. Elsewhere in the country, butchers hung up their knives to show respect for life while Buddhist monks prepared to chant through the night.

In India, thousands took part in interfaith prayers at an 18th century church, then marched to a burial ground for tsunami victims.

In Thailand, some villagers refused to take part, saying the rites were expensive, inappropriate events designed to attract tourists and showcase the government.

World leaders sent condolences. “It was so brutal, so quick, and so extensive that we are still struggling to fully comprehend it,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a videotaped message Monday.

Said President Bush, in a message that was broadcast in Jakarta: “A year later, we remember those days of sorrow, and we also recall the acts of courage and kindness that made us proud.”