Knowledge is Power: The Tilly Smith Story


The seawater on Maikhao beach was beginning to froth.

Like a fresh pint of beer, the bubbles in the ocean formed a white, cream-like foam on the top of the surface.

Tilly Smith was ten years old at the time. She was on a Christmas holiday with her parents – for once, Christmas day was going to be spent on a golden, sunny beach instead of rainy England.

The young girl noticed something peculiar.

The sea.

Not only was it frothy, it had receded all the way back from the sand and was now several metres away from its usual location.

She had seen this before – in geography class, Smith learned that these were the warning signs of an impending tsunami.

She told her father – who brushed off the warning. After all, if the lifeguards weren’t worried, why should he be? Smith was only a kid who didn’t know what she was talking about.

Tilly told her father again and again. Still, he didn’t listen.

Mr. Smith found himself in a tricky predicament.

He could either ignore his daughter, upsetting her, or he could mooch over to the lifeguards and risk embarrassing himself in front of them about this alleged ‘tsunami’ that was apparently just about to happen.

He chose the latter option – a father’s love, right?

Rather than tell the lifeguards, however, he told the security guards about the supposed danger.

The security guards then informed the lifeguards who evacuated the beach.

Shortly after, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami arrived and devastated the whole country.

Two-hundred and twenty thousand lives were lost. Millions of homes were lost. Billions of dollars’ worth of damage occured.

Nobody on Maikhao beach died.

Because one ten year-old girl was listening in class.

Because one ten year-old girl wouldn’t change her mind.

Because one father gave in to his parental instincts.

If I was a better writer I’d think of a profound, insightful lesson to write here.

I’ll try my best:

Perhaps we should listen to our gut feeling more and not give in regardless of what others might think – the result could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Actually that wasn’t too bad.

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