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“Wave”: A family vacation turns into the worst kind of nightmare

The first time Sonali Deraniyagala heard the word "tsunami," she was shut up in a darkened bedroom in her aunt's house in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was 2004, and the wave had just taken her parents, her husband and her two young sons.

Deraniyagala had been vacationing with her family in a seaside hotel near a national park when, through a terrace window, she saw the sea rising rapidly past its familiar bounds. With her husband, Steve, she grabbed Vikram, 8, and Malli, 5, and rushed out the door and up the drive. They jumped in a passing jeep, but soon the wave overwhelmed even that. The last time Deraniyagala saw her husband's face, he was looking in horror at something over her shoulder. Then the jeep overturned, and for Deraniyagala the next few hours were chaos, violence and filthy water, the tsunami tossing her miles inland and then sucking her out again. Just before she would have been swept out to sea, she grabbed an overhanging branch and felt the ground materialize under her feet. She never saw her family again.

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