Lessons save lives: the story of Tilly Smith

>>Narrator: If you didn’t know her, you’d think 10 year old Tilly Smith was just an ordinary schoolgirl. She enjoys all the things ordinary schoolgirls do. She lives an ordinary life, and goes to ordinary lessons here at Danes Hill School in Oxshott, in Surrey. But on the 26th of December, 2004, Tilly Smith was caught up in an extraordinary situation. and reacted like lightning to save the day. She and her family were on holiday in Phuket, in Thailand, when the Asian tsunami struck. Most people failed to spot the first warning signs in the water, but Tilly had just studied tsunamis in school.>>Tilly Smith: I remembered because I had been taught it in a geography lesson, and it was the exact same froth like you get on a beer. And so it was sort of sizzling.>>Narrator: Just two weeks earlier, Tilly’s geography teacher, Andrew Kearney, had taught them about the early warning signs for a tsunami, and how important it is to act quickly.>>Andrew Kearney: From the time you suspect something’s wrong, then it’s crucial to get to higher ground and to get away from the seaside. Even if the water is not that high, the power of the waves could crush and drag you down and drag you away.>>Tilly Smith: I said there’s definitely going to be a tsunami and my mum didn’t believe me. She didn’t react. And so she just kept on walking. And my dad sort of believed me. And Holly, my sister, was getting really scared. So she ran back to the pool. And then my dad went back with her. And then I said, “Right, Mum, I’m going. I am definitely going. There is definitely going to be a tsunami.” And she just, “Bye then.” So I went back, and then she was sort of reacting a bit more when I’d gone. And so she went back to see if I was okay. And then the minute that she had to come back, the water started coming up the beach.>>Narrator: The tsunami wreaked havoc across Asia, killing over 270,000 people and causing massive destruction to property. Large parts of Phuket were damaged, but with such simple but crucial information, Tilly managed to save the lives of all the people on her beach.>>Tilly Smith: Well I told my dad, and my dad told the security guards, and then the security guards told the people on the beach. Because there were quite a few families on the beach, just in the water.>>Narrator: Some reports claimed Tilly saved over 100 lives that day, but she says the real hero is her geography teacher, who saved her life, and those of her family.>>Tilly Smith: If it wasn’t for Mr. Kearney then I would probably be dead and so would my family, and so I’m quite proud that he’s taught me that, in the time, you know, that it was.>>Andrew Kearney: The power of education is the difference between, I suppose, success and failure, life and death in this case. and there is nothing to substitute it for. Without education I think people are powerless. With education, as can be seen here, they are very powerful in terms of directing their own lives.>>Narrator: According to the UNISDR, children can be very effective messengers and can help teach the older generation. If Tilly hadn’t been there, her mother may easily have died.>>Tilly Smith: My mum didn’t realize, because she wasn’t taught about tsunamis when she was younger, and she didn’t realize what a tsunami was. She didn’t even know that that word existed. So I think it’s really good to actually know the word and be taught it.>>Narrator: Tilly agreed to be interviewed for the UN International Strategy on Disaster Reduction because she hopes her experience may help spread the word in other countries about the importance of raising awareness. Though her life is now back to normal, she still thinks about those who died in the tsunami, and says one day she would like to return.>>Tilly Smith: I sort of felt guilty that I had survived and all those people hadn’t. I’d like to go there again, just to finish up our holiday, and I’m quite proud of myself that I knew what was happening.>>Narrator: It’s hoped when the next time comes, more people will react like Tilly.

47 thoughts on “Lessons save lives: the story of Tilly Smith

  1. This is a wonderful story-I posted a video response asking Dr. Phil to bring an undeniable awareness to TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES to HELP STOP THE GLOBAL TBI EPIDEMIC!! Hope this web site will be willing to join me in this fight and share this very important video!! Thank you!! Sincerely, Scott Collier DTV

  2. I used to go there. A Truely Amazing school. I left in 2004, I remember the filming, I was in it!! (the Part where they come up from break, i stare at the camera…lol) – Ed (not Connor)

  3. I knew of her! That's why I searched for this video. At least to me she's a hero–actually paying attention in class, learning something vitally important, and then saving lives with her knowledge. Let this be a warning to everyone–when the sea weirdly retreats, run like hell to the highest hill. Even if it's a false alarm, better safe than sorry.

  4. I've just remembered her from when the tsunami happened, 'the angel on the beach' was on the news everywhere in Thailand (thank god I was in Bangkok and not down south)

  5. I feel that children, including babies, and animals and birds are far smarter than most adults give them credit for. We should stop and listen and watch them more often. We all might learn more.

  6. 270 thousand human life lost ! I can't imagine what is coming to East Coast of American continent that will top it off with far more exceeding level and power from La Palma Volcano Tsunami which is estimated to be around 100 m high.

  7. What do you know, something useful taught and someone listened and then her parents ignore her. Good for Tilly, I hope she remembers this all her life, to stand by what she knows to be true and act on it.

  8. Ab amazing teacher who was able to convey a somewhat alien concept to a young child. Teacher of the year!!!


  10. Another good reason to teach science and true facts (as opposed to the alternative facts of the Trump era) to our kids. You never know when they might save your life. Well done Tilly!

  11. Wonderful story and you’ve just passed your knowledge onto everyone who reads this post Tilly. I will know what to look for if I ever find myself in this unenviable situation, thank you Tilly .

  12. Harm de Blij's ''Why Geography Matters'' (with a reference to Tilly as an example of the necessity of geography education at an early age) brought me here : ))

  13. ɪ ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴛʜɪs sᴛᴏʀʏ ɪ ᴛʜᴇ sᴛᴜᴅᴇɴᴛ's ʙᴏᴏᴋ

  14. Shame on her mum. Parents should learn to listen to their kids. The poor girl had to insist and her mother continued walking ?Luckily her dad went back at least. In the end no one on that beach died but having seen afterwards the extent of the catastrophe and the thousands of people who perished she should feel guilty for the rest of her life . Well done Tilly . Stand up for yourself. Always. And follow your dreams. You’re a hero ??

  15. She was supposed to know this before the event because something special she will invent in the future.

  16. Wow, idk why people always doubt children and young adults, even though they are very smart people sometimes!

  17. I am having a lesson on my text book! Tilly Smith that time she was 10 years old!

  18. mom finally catches up to tilly
    Tillys mother: Come on tilly there will be no tsunami.
    tsunami comes in
    tillys mother: Nevermind

  19. I feel gratefull to find this story.. about everyone can be a hero.. because they want to learning, listening or brave to going act

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