Local airman helps with disaster relief

Rich Burns is glad his son, Rich Jr., and his family decided not to go jet skiing during the Christmas holidays on the coast of Thailand.

The coast of Thailand was devastated by a tsunami caused by an earthquake off Indonesia in the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26. It registered a 9.0 on the Richter scale.

“We saw the news on Sunday and they showed Bangkok and we went, “Oh, my god, our son and grandkids are over there,” Rich said.

Fortunately, Rich Jr. and his family were inland in Bangkok near the United States embassy, where he serves in the Air Force, when the tsunami struck, Rich said.

After two days of trying to contact him, Rich said he finally got through.

“When we finally got ahold of him, he said they heard some rumbling and thought it was thunder,” he said. “It was a definite relief.”

Rick Jr. joined the Air Force in 1988 and has been stationed all around the globe including Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, he said.

“He’s been in Thailand since July and he had planned to go jet skiing during his time off,” he said. “We’re glad he decided not to go.”

However, now his son, who first called home on Tuesday, is extremely busy working at the embassy, he said.

“It was kind of like when Mt. St. Helens erupted and people kept calling us from California,” he said. “We weren’t affected by it.”

Knowing that his son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren were unharmed by the natural disaster was especially heartwarming during the holiday season, he said.

“It’s been a blessing because we were really worried about them when we first heard the news,” he said.

As for plans to visit the now devastated country, Rich said he and his wife will probably postpone plans to visit until 2006.

“We’re still planning on visiting them, but it probably won’t be for a while,” Rich said.

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