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Surviving the Tsunami


As word of 2004’s deadly tsunami spread across the globe, Danville’s Mary Mattis received news that the Thai island where her daughter Jody Humes was vacationing was directly hit by the catastrophic wave.

“It was so shocking. You hear people say things like this, but you never believe it can happen to you,” says Mattis. “I tried not to panic, but, admittedly, I lost it.”

Mattis’s daughter was reading on the beach of Ko Phi Phi—where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was filmed—with her boyfriend, Steve Mockus, when faraway ships began rushing toward them. The couple dashed up an embankment, only to be pounded by a series of waves. Humes was separated from Mockus, and as she fought not to drown, her swimsuit was ripped off, she swallowed oil, dirt, and wood, and got hit by an air conditioner that had been swept up in the waves.

Since being rescued, Humes has made more than a dozen trips to the hospital as she recovers from double pneumonia, a ruptured eardrum, cuts and bruises all over her body, and ringworm. But less than three weeks after returning home, she was back teaching school in San Jose, albeit still somewhat shaken.

Humes, 31, says she would consider visiting Thailand again, but admits she has become more fearful. “She survived a tsunami, but she’s worried about driving on the freeway,” says Mattis.

Having pulled through such an intense trauma, Humes and Mockus are now nearly inseparable. Their mothers have become close friends, and Mattis and Humes talk nearly every day, keeping better tabs on each other. “This whole tragedy really brought our family together in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” says Mattis.

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