It was instinctive, what the young couple did to tell their parents back here about nearly dying on a Thailand beach: They sent an e-mail. Jimmy and Crystal Anderson were in a...

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It was instinctive, what the young couple did to tell their parents back here about nearly dying on a Thailand beach: They sent an e-mail.

Jimmy and Crystal Anderson were in a rented bungalow in Phuket when the tsunami hit, filling their abode within seconds with water nearly to the ceiling.

A day later, after being put up in a college dorm, they sent e-mails describing their ordeal.

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With her husband sitting by her side, Crystal Anderson began typing about the tsunami, “… we heard screaming and people running outside … water started pouring … Jimmy and I jumped on top of furniture.”

In times of disaster now, it’s the Internet that’s used to tell friends and relatives that we’re OK.; it’s how those relatives try to find your whereabouts; and how people wanting to help contact humanitarian agencies.

For example, from 8 a.m. until noon on Monday, World Concern, a Seattle nonprofit, had 2,400 unique visitors to its site, when normally it gets 300.

The Anderson’s e-mail to family and friends brought home their ordeal. “I had a hold of the doorway and Jimmy kept being pushed back by the strong water and floating furniture kept appearing in front of him. (I thought for sure were going to die.) I reached out my arm and somehow Jimmy got enough strength to swim against the water.”

What Crystal didn’t include in the e-mail was that as Jimmy kept being pushed back, he yelled at his wife to save herself: “Get out! Get out!” She yelled back, “I’m not going without you!”

Crystal, 25, and Jimmy, 27, moved this year from Auburn when Crystal got a job in Singapore as a Web consultant. They had gone to Thailand for a Christmas vacation.

Writing e-mails about life’s dramatic events is cathartic, said Sharyn Bolton, president of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. As opposed to a phone call, she said, those typing out their thoughts “have more sense of freedom. They’re able to express themselves without interruption, or a sense of judgment or censorship. It releases their emotions and helps bring a better understanding of events.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Jimmy said of e-mailing: “It’s just so amazing. You can get on e-mail and contact so many people and let them know you’re all right,” he said.

Upon reading the couple’s e-mail, Jimmy’s mother, Marianne Anderson of Spanaway, said, “I was just shocked. I wasn’t expecting what had happened to them to be quite as dramatic. It was pretty scary.”

The drama came in descriptions such as this:

“We went under the water … and the current swept us inland. Jimmy yelled, ‘Grab onto anything you can.’ He grabbed a tree branch and I came right behind … There was an elderly man in his bathing suit with blood on his face in the same tree. We climbed the tree and the water went back to sea pulling everything, cars, people, debris.

“I remember Jimmy saying that he remembered watching the Discovery Channel on tsunamis and he said that we need to climb the tree because a second wave will come … the second wave came and it was 10 feet higher than the first. We clung onto the tree and waited for two hours as we watched cars and larger trees get swept away.”

From Singapore the next day, Jimmy told of the eeriness between waves. “It’s hard to explain. It’s total silence. You can hear birds chirping, then occasionally people scream,” he remembered. The couple and the elderly man clung to the tree for an hour and a half. Eventually they made their way to the hotel’s pool area, and then began running toward the town.

They tried to wave down cars heading toward high ground, but the drivers didn’t stop. They came upon a woman standing next to an idling pickup. She pointed to a man closing up a café. He let them get in the back of the truck. By then, at least eight others had jumped in.

The people living on a hillside gave the couple plastic bags full of cooked rice, and bottled water. “These people have nothing, and they were giving us all this,” Jimmy said.

An Australian man living nearby took them in briefly. That night, he even drove Jimmy back to the bungalow, where, by luck, the bag containing their passports was wedged.

The couple spent the next night in the college dorm in Phuket, and the next day flew back to Singapore. The airport was in chaos, so the couple booked their flight online from the dorm.