Pay Attention: School Might Save Your Life

* It's probably a safe bet that Tilly Smith got an A in geography.

Tilly was 10 and vacationing with her family in Thailand last December when a tsunami struck the island of Phuket.

Just before the winter break, Tilly had studied tsunamis in her school outside London, England. So she noticed something strange on the morning of Dec. 26 when she and her family were walking on the beach. "The water was coming in, but it wasn't going out again. It was coming in, and then in, and then in, toward the hotel," Tilly remembered.

She recognized the water pattern as a sign that waves from a huge underwater earthquake were only minutes away.

Tilly became so upset that her father went back to the hotel to tell the managers. In the meantime, Tilly ran to the beach, where a hundred people were enjoying the beautiful day. She cried, "Tsunami." Everybody left the beach just moments before the waves struck. The tsunami wound up killing at least 178,000 people in South Asia.

Last week, Tilly, now 11, was honored at the United Nations in New York for her smart and courageous act that saved lives. She met former president Bill Clinton, who said, "Tilly's story is a simple reminder that education can make a difference between life and death."

This week, Tilly is back in school. Her favorite subject? "I like geography," she said.

Former president Bill Clinton with Tilly Smith, 11, at the United Nations.