Kirkland man who survived record typhoon wants to give back
PUYALLUP, Wash. - If you were certain you were about to die, what would you think about? Gregg Anderson looked death in the face on Nov. 8, 2013, as the strongest landfall typhoon ever recorded hit right on top of him.
"My buddy and me, we shook each other's hand and we said 'this is it'."
"'This is it' as in 'goodbye'?" we asked.
"You're gonna die?"
"Yea. And, and we agreed it was a good way to go."
His cell phone video, overwhelmed by furious wind noise, during the chaos tells the story:
"Hey Chad! We better get back in the hole, buddy! We better get back in the hole!"
The locals called it Yolanda. Officially, the record-breaking typhoon was called Haiyan.
"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus," says Gregg looking out of his villa that has already lost most of its roof, walls and windows.
Anderson, from Kirkland, had just arrived for his dream vacation in tiny Sulangan, Philippines, at the tip of what is suddenly the most vulnerable spot on planet Earth.
They were hunkered down in a tiny room under the stairs.
"We said, 'I think this is it.' Yea," Anderson said, reflecting from his Puyallup mortgage office and looking at his riveting video.
"What'd you think about? Who'd you think about?" I asked.
"I was like, (sigh) God, I just thought it was here, this is it, you know? And I'm not going to live through this one. And, um, it was one of those flashbacks of everything you've done in your mind. Really quick in your mind. Hyper speed. And then you just close your eyes and you hope that it doesn't happen," Anderson said. "And, um, ironically, I as at peace with it. I was OK."
They lived. But Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people.
"This is brutal," Anderson declares as he is walking through the rubble with his cell phone recording video of dazed and stunned villagers.
"Those kinda things, you can't shake it. It sticks with ya," he told us. "I saw death. I saw destruction people that didn't make it. You know, in the woodsBodies, you know, in the water and the mudbody bags along the streets."
"These people, they obviously know we're Americans and they're saying, 'get the word out to help us,' " Anderson narrated into his cell phone camera as he showed.
Anderson said the only reason the typhoon did not kill him was because of the kindness of the villagers. "And I couldn't believe it how generous they were, how selfless," he said. "And I promised them that I would try to help."
"We're going to take this back to the United States, get it on video, and try to help, OK?"
"OK. Thank you!" say villagers back to his camera.
"There's my promise," he said looking at his video. "I'm gonna do it. They need help."
So, the branch manager at Cobalt Mortgage is back at work now at his office in Puyallup, a world away, keeping his promise. He's raising $10,000 through GoFundMe.com
"It's not going to the 'Gregg Needs A New Truck Fund'," he laughs. "Although I need one!"
He's going to personally deliver food, supplies and cash -- much of it to the local church -- when he returns to Sulangan on March 7 to help those who helped save his life.
"Directly in the city that needs it the most," he said. "They're on their own! They're just in No Man's Land. They're getting nothing!"
He feels the world has forgotten them.
"Completely. Yeah!," he said. "It's like, 'OK, we helped you for a couple weeks, we sent it a couple ships with a bunch of stuff -- good luck.' And I just can't let that go.
"I gotta do something. I promised I would help."