She's a geography hero

Meet a 10-year-old whose knowledge of tsunamis saved 100 lives.

Published November 5, 2005 1:12AM (EST)

Are you a sucker for a brainiac girl-hero story? Well, this one is truly epic: Ten-year-old Tilly Smith's knowledge of geography saved 100 lives, including her parents', her sister's and her own, at a Thai resort last December.

Two weeks before the Dec. 26th tsunami, Smith studied the monster waves in geography class back in Oxshott, England. Walking on the beach that morning with her family on the island of Phuket, Tilly recognized the telltale signs of the coming deluge.

When the girl told her mother, her mom tried to quell her fears, and "Tilly grew hysterical," her dad remembers, according to the Associated Press. But not so hysterical that she didn't have the presence of mind to run back to the crowded beach in front of the hotel, and warn a hotel chef, while her dad notified other hotel staff. The beach was evacuated minutes before the gigantic wave struck. It was one of the few beaches in Phuket where no one was killed or seriously injured.

The now 11-year-old Tilly was in New York this week to visit the United Nations and to meet former President Clinton, the U.S. tsunami recovery envoy. Catch the whole story of her heroics here. It is really worth it, especially this money quote from the hero herself: "I like geography."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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