Richard Brassard was vacationing in Arugam Bay with his 7-year-old son, Cairo, and his girlfriend, Pong, when the tsunami hit. When the first wave came crashing in, Richard believed it was simply high tide. It wasn't until he was knocked down and covered with water that he knew something was wrong. As he grabbed a tree and saw the water quickly rising, he saw Cairo spin out in front of him. "I was going to dive in, and then he disappeared," Richard says. "I thought, 'He's so far ahead of me I'll never catch up to him.'
After a second set of waves receded, Richard and his friend Bandu searched for Cairo. Finally, Richard was told someone had seen Cairo's dead body at the end of the lagoon.
"I had this giant pain," Richard says. "It was like somebody punched me."
Bandu went to identify the body, and later Richard saw his son. "There were no cuts on him. He looked okay. And I talked to him a little bit. I cleaned his face. And I kissed him and told him I loved him. I wanted to spend more time with my son even though he was dead. I just wanted to look at him a little more. Touch him. But they wouldn't let me."
Richard says he doesn't know what he will do now. "My whole life was Cairo. That was my daily life. Everything I did was for Cairo. That was my future. He was not just my son. He was my best friend. My traveling companion. So I don't know yet. I just need to recover a little bit and then I'll think about what I'm going to do."
Learn more about the tsunami disaster from Nate Berkus and his fellow tsunami survivors.