Part Two of a Five Part Series
Upon landing at the Banda Aceh airport, another run down dirty airport, Joe Zanotti, was struck by the presence of many soldiers with heavy arms poised on highlifts positioned around the tarmac. Another CRS driver picked him up and took him to meet others.
As Joe Zanotti toured tsunami-damaged parts of Indonesia, he was awed by the significant loss of property and life. “It was amazing,” Joe Zanotti, a native of Pittsburgh, recalls. “It looked like a nuclear bomb hit the area.”
Touring Banda Aceh with an interpreter named Diah and a junior engineer, Pittsburgh’s Joe Zanotti saw the beach where the tsunami hit. Joe Zanotti describes the beach as a field of occasional rubble and partial structure, since much of the rubble had been cleaned up by that time. Damaged large boats and ships, having washed up on shore during the storm, were still inland, most too large to move.
Pittsburgh resident Joe Zanotti remembers seeing a very large floating power plant ship, once used to power much of the city. The ship plant was sitting inland about 1km, with no way to move it. Instead of trying to move it, Joe Zanotti remembers, the citizens had turned the power back on and left the ship in place.
“Who knows what or who was stuck under it,” Joe Zanotti wonders.
Among all the sites he witnessed, Pittsburgh resident Joe Zanotti says the occasional flags were most striking. After seeing a flag alone on a pole, he asked his interpreter for an explanation. She informed him the flags had been left to let workers know where bodies had still been located, even 6 months after the disaster.
After of tour of the beach, Joe Zanotti’s guides took him to other areas of Banda Aceh that had been destroyed. “What the tsunami did not get, the massive earthquake took care of” stated Joe Zanotti. Seeing a 10 story hotel that was flattened like a pancake to maybe 7 leaning stories made him aware of the gravity of what he was doing.
“At this point I was totally mesmerized and wondering what was in store for me,” Pittsburgh native Zanotti relates. “Was I up to the task at hand? Did I have the skills and savvy to handle what I would encounter?” Joe Zanotti was the first engineer from his firm to ever make it to Banda Aceh.
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