KHAO LAK, Thailand – At the half-demolished hotel where we stayed during our time here in Khao Lak (search), some of the staff are afraid to come back after dark.
It seems they believe ghosts now walk the beaches and haunt this onetime paradise, forever changed by the Dec. 26 tsunami that swept across South Asia. There remains so much to recover here; much of it will never be seen.
The pictures may fade from our memories and from your television sets, but they will never disappear for those who saw the destruction. At times it seemed everywhere we looked there were bodies, or people searching for them. Victims of all ages, of all colors, from all nations ... children swept from the arms of their desperate parents.
In some places with destruction of Biblical proportions, the smell of death was unbearable — the look of despair, heartbreaking. But everywhere we traveled throughout this devastated region we found stories of hope and faith. We discovered a human spirit that couldn't be overrun by Mother Nature.
Yes, there are still worries of disease and of mass poverty, even war and radical Islamic threats in some areas. And there are those memories, which most of the world shares because of the haunting pictures that came from the camcorders of innocent tourists out for a morning walk in paradise or eating breakfast in a seaside cafe once bordered by tranquil waters.
As one of our photographers put it, people may now think of this area as paradise lost but the faith and commitment to rebuild paradise is stronger than ever. The victims will never be forgotten but the hope is time will heal the wound.
We are lucky. We get to come home. We get to see our family and friends.
To my crew here on the ground in Thailand — the producers, photographers and technical staff — I thank their dedication and strength; in one direction you saw absolute beauty and in another you saw absolute death.