Played by Luck : A Tsunami Survivor’s Story

On the  26th of December 2004, one of the world’s most destructive tsunamis, the Indian Ocean Tsunami, struck.  Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives during this tragic event, but Cameron Hunter and his family were one of the few lucky survivors.

14 years ago, Cameron Hunter, a current middle school vice principal at UWCSEA East, went to celebrate Christmas with his family of four at Bang Tao Bay in Phuket. The day after Christmas, Mr Hunter’s two young children, Kyle and Callum, woke him up early to go play on the beach, which was empty compared to the day before.

“I was planning to go windsurfing at 9:30 am,” Mr Hunter recalled. He was waiting impatiently at the beach while his kids and wife were playing with the sand. After a while, the person who rents out the surfboard did not come to the beach, and Mr Hunter stated that “In retrospect, was really good, and I probably wouldn’t be here if he came.”

Something is wrong

“The water receded quite fast at around 9:30 am.” Mr Hunter recalled. Mistaking it for the low tide, he and his family ran out into the sea with their buckets, marveling at the starfish on the exposed seabed.

They went out into the sea, meeting the water. “At this point, I knew something was wrong, as the water wasn’t  not ebbing and flowing, the water was frothing.” Mr Hunter recalled. The rest of his family were scattered around the sea, so he decided to go back to the shore with his family. He was fortunate to have noticed the frothing water as a dangerous sign. Because of this, he managed to get his family together before the tsunami hit.

“Almost as soon as I decided ‘let’s get back’, the water just went up like that, up to your neck height, but it wasn’t a massive wall of water, and that is why I think we were lucky. We were lucky because we were in a protected bay.” Everything that Mr Hunter did on that day was ultimately full of luck, such as not going windsurfing, and noticing that the water was frothing. These actions built onto one another, making this a luck-filled day for Mr Hunter, despite the fact that he and his family were struck by a tsunami.

“Everyone is screaming, and we are now being pushed into shore,” Mr Hunter stated. “We were swimming in with one hand holding the child, and it’s a long way.” Mr Hunter’s wife gave both of their children to him, so Mr Hunter was struggling to swim to shore while both his toddlers were clinging onto to each of his arms. “It’s really panicky, but still I was like, ‘yeah it’s going to be okay, it’s just a big wave.’” This is because the reality of the wave didn’t hit him yet, allowing him to remain calm.

Just Like the Movies

They got onto the shore with the help of the man who rents out the surfboard, and they ran for their lives, as fast as they could to their hotel. Mr Hunter and his family were played by luck a second time that day as their hotel was on a hill. Even though the hotel got flooded, it wasn’t devastated like the beach huts.

“The massive wave came in, and it came in huge. We were now on a balcony and it was like watching a movie. We were watching this massive wave come in and destroy everything on the beach.’” Mr Hunter remembered, talking about the devastation the tsunami caused.

Toying with Luck

“We were very lucky again, many, many, many lucky things,” Mr Hunter concluded as he tells us his tsunami story. They were very lucky geographically as the water had a long way to travel from the epicenter to Bang Tao Bay, therefore the force of the wave won’t be that strong when it hits the Bay as the wave hits many islands on the way to the bay.

“We were just looking at each other, thinking, ‘wow, how lucky were we’.” Mr Hunter recalled thinking while watching the devastation around him. All the events of that one day shows that Mr Hunter and his family were toying with luck.


Afterwards, the survivors were evacuated into higher ground where someone managed to get a wifi signal. “It’s a bit like a refugee camp […] people sick, broken arms, things like that, and you realise ‘oh this is really serious, people have died here.’” Mr Hunter and the rest of the survivors found out that an earthquake happened at 5:30 in the morning, but Mr Hunter doesn’t recall feeling the earthquake, despite the it being a massive one. This natural disaster affected millions of people all across Asia.

That night, the survivors were taken back to the hotel to get a night’s rest. Fortunately, Mr Hunter’s room was on the second floor, so neither his room nor his items got ruined.

The next day Mr Hunter was awoken early by his toddlers once again. He took them to the pool to find out that a lot of people were still at the poolside, despite a massive tsunami just happening the day before.

“It’s a bit strange,” Mr Hunter explained, describing the emotions he felt when people who marvelled over the fact that he and his family survived. He remembers an Australian man who walked up to him and told him, “Were you the family that was out? Were you the family that was in the wave? Someone was looking out for you.”

Someone was definitely looking out for Mr Hunter and his family, making sure that the family of four had all the luck possible, just for that one day. Having no belief in any higher power, Mr Hunter was truly fortunate to have luck on his side.

Works Cited

Bank, Asian Development. “Damage from the Asian Tsunami of 26 December 2004.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 24 Dec. 2014,

WF 2019 Reflection

What relevant words or phrases best describe the stories and speakers you have met?

We listened to six speakers during writers fortnight: Ms. Wiseman, a cancer survivor; Mr. Hunter, a tsunami survivor; Mr. Huntington, an ex-worker at a prison; Al Hornsby, a nature photographer; Mr. Suarez, an ex-teacher at a prison; and Grahm Rawle, an author. These speakers shared their captivating stories, teaching us, the listeners, big lessons.

A word to describe the cancer survival story would be ‘vulnerability’, as Ms. Wiseman talked about how she faces vulnerability on a day to day basis, and how she embraced it as she has faced death once. A phrase to describe the tsunami survival story would be ‘played by luck’, as Mr. Hunter and his family were definitely played by luck on the day the tsunami hit. A word to describe the ex-prison worker’s story would be ‘observant’ and Mr. Huntington shared that he observed lots of discrimination in the prison that he worked in. A word to describe the nature photographer’s story would be ‘passion’ as you could sense the deep passion Al Hornsby has for what he does. A word to describe the ex-prison teacher’s story would be ‘learning’, as Mr. Suarez told us about how he learned from the prisoners he taught, and how he learned multiple life lessons from them. A word to describe Grahm Rawle’s story would be ‘patient’, as you could tell that he has so much patience to write a book by finding words from magazines, cutting it out, and forming new sentences with them.

What patterns do you find emerging and why?

An emerging pattern from all these stories is that all the speakers said how the situation/job affected them and what they learned from it. I think that the main reason why the speakers included a lesson in their stories is because we all are students and we all are in our prime stage of learning, so including a lesson in one’s story would result in the student learning from the story instead of simply knowing the situation.

What words or phrases have you heard that were particularly striking? Discuss.

A phrase that was really striking was “just a big wave” from Mr. Hunter’s story of surviving the Asian Tsunami. I find this really striking as it shows how calm he was during the time of this huge natural disaster. His calm state of mind was contradicting the events happening around him, and that really struck me, how someone can stay that calm during such a life-changing event.

What ideas were discussed that has continued to stay in your mind?

From the stories that I heard, two ideas were stuck in my head:

  1. Everyone learns from one another – from Mr. Suarez
  2. Vulnerability is a key emotion that we all have to embrace – Ms. Wiseman

The reason why the first idea stuck with me is because I find it interesting to know that in school, both student and teachers are learning from one another. I find this very interesting because I find it hard to fathom teacher’s learning from us students as well.

The reason why the second idea has continued to stay in my mind is because knowing that you are vulnerable and that you could die any second now gives you a completely different mindset. It makes out cherish life even more and live life to the fullest. Embracing vulnerability makes one stronger and more powerful in a sense because they know that would’ve lived their best life, even if death comes very unexpectedly.

What new ideas, thoughts or feeling have you encountered?

As I discussed above, the main idea that I have encountered is the idea of vulnerability and embracing it, embracing the fact that we are not immortal, and that any second could be our last.

If we could do the week again, what would you like to spend more time doing? Why?

I would like to spend more time listening to Ms. Wiseman and Mr. Hunter’s stories as they both told their stories on how they survived an event that ended up impacting them. I find survival stories very interesting as I enjoy listening to how people faced an issue, how they were affected by it, and how they overcame it. I feel if I listened to Ms. Wiseman’s and Mr. Hunter’s stories, I would’ve definitely learned a lot more from their experiences.

What have you realised about the process of writing and telling stories?

From Writer’s Fortnight, I learned that the process of writing is a very long one that takes up a lot of time and effort and that stories can be written from any experiences that one has experienced. I also learned that everyone has stories to share, and the way that someone presents their story is what makes it interesting.

What activities has inspired you to write stories? What stories would you like to write?

In my case, reading has really inspired me to write stories as I read a lot and I get a lot of different ideas from the books that I’ve read. I would like to write fictions stories or biographies as I find others’ stories very interesting.