COOPER: It bears repeating that each night, we’ve been moved by the stories of people, people who have literally reached out and saved strangers’ lives. Daylan Sanders is a U.S. citizen who sold his townhouse near Washington D.C. 10 years ago, and moved back to his native Sri Lanka, to build an orphanage, the Samaritan Children’s Home. When the waves came on Sunday, he gathered all 28 children, put them in a boat, and raced the waves to safety.
He joins me now on the phone from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Thanks very much for being with us, Daylan.
You know, we talked to a lot of people, and when they first saw the waves, they instantly thought to run to higher ground, but not you. What made you think your best chances were at sea in a boat?
DAYLAN SANDERS, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, SAMARITAN CHILDREN’S HOME: Because there are no words in human speech to describe what we saw. It was a 30-foot wall of sea, just bearing down on us like an angry monster. And it was coming at us at such speed, I knew that there was no place on ground where we could be safe. So I knew — there was something in me that told me that instantly, that we’ve got to get on top of this wave if — to stay safe.
COOPER: So how quickly — how quickly…
SANDERS: So I came out, I called out for the children. They all came. We rushed. We had just 10 seconds to get into the boat, and that day the outboard motor stayed hooked to the boat. Usually, we take it off every night. And we got into the boat — you know, it had rushed in. It has — it just demolished everything that stood in its path. It came with such force. It just hit both of the garages. The garages just splintered in every direction. It lifted up my Toyota pickup vehicle, my Mitsubishi L-300. We had a three-wheeler, a motor bike. Everything — it just pulverized.
And then when we got into the boat, it was just a few — I would say about 15 feet away, and we were eyeball to eyeball with the wave. And immediately, a scripture popped into my mind. It said, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it.”
And I know from there, I got the courage. I just stood up in the small boat, and I lifted both my hands and I said, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, on the strength of the scriptures, that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against him. I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to stand still. And I thought I was imagining at the time that the massive wall of water, it stood. It — I’m not one given to exaggeration. I saw, as if something holding back, some invisible force or hand. It just stood.
And — this was confirmed, because later on, when I met some of the villagers who had climbed on top of palmara (ph) trees and coconut trees and had survived this onslaught. They told me — they called me father. They said, Father, we didn’t stand a chance because the sea, when it got down to the beach and it crushed into the village, it came with the same speed and the same furry, and it just wiped us all out.
But when — ours is a four-acre complex. We have a boys section, the girls’ home, the staff section and everything. But when it got on your land, at one point, it stood still. It just slowed down. And that gave you the chance. What made it? Was it the density of the trees or the buildings? I said, there was no power on Earth that could have held it back but the power of God. I said, I called upon God, and I commanded it in the name of Jesus, who 2,000 years ago he commanded the waves, and they obeyed. He commanded the sea, and they obeyed. And this is the very same God did the same to us and gave us those precious few seconds that we needed to stop at the first yank, at the start, the engine just sputtered into life.
COOPER: And Daylan, I know your gamble paid off. You were able to take your boat really directly through the wave and rescue all the children in your orphanage.
SANDERS: By the way, they came up to us, and I told them that, you know, it’s going to catch up with us and if it caught up…
COOPER: It’s a remarkable, remarkable story, Daylan. Able to save 28 of the children in the orphanage. The orphanage itself, the buildings, the structures destroyed. But it’s a remarkable tale. Daylan Sanders, thanks for joining us.