It's Going To Be A Long Night
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Josh at
Josh Lee is an up and coming young writer and semi-professional photographer, born in Tokyo, but raised in Honolulu, currently a senior attending Kalani High School. After graduation, Lee will moving to Seattle, Washington to attend college at Cornish College of the Arts. He looks forward to filling his future with work in all three of his areas of interest: writing, photography, and graphic design, hoping to, one day, edit his own lifestyle magazine, on par with Vanity Fair or the New Yorker. As a writer, Lee is never one to hold his tongue, believing that writers should never try to sugar coat or implement damage control. Life isn't fiction -- the writing about it shouldn't be either. In his spare time, Lee enjoys running around town with his camera, shooting for fun by himself or with friends. Lee is also currently working on two novels, one of which deals with politics in an 'unusual way'.
        Shut up, shut up, shut up. Iím lying in bed looking up at the ceiling. Thereís a siren wailing through my head. Itís somewhere between one thirty and two oí clock in the morning. I donít feel like glancing at the clock again.
        Weíre under a tsunami warning and the city wants us to know it.
        My house is not in the inundation zone Ė unless the wave is a hundred feet high, Iím safe and sound. Let me go to sleep.
        The siren drones on and on and on. Iím starting to get a bit irritated. Iíve been trying to get sleep for the last few hours. Itís becoming apparent that itís not going to happen. I get up, walking slowly, back hunched, out to the living room. I turn on the television and see looping footage of chaos, destruction, and death. Big sigh.
        But letís rewind a few hours to the beginning of the night. Itís eight oí clock, the previous evening, and Iím catching up on the dayís news, navigating through the Associated Pressí online news portal.
        Just as Iím reading a story about something insignificant, a red banner appears at the top of the page and a ticker tape begins running across my screen. Thereís just been a massive 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Japan Ė one of the largest in the countryís history. At 7.9 itís one of the largest in the worldís history as well.
        Here in Hawaii we tend to pay attention to news of earthquakes around the Pacific. As weíre a miniscule island chain in the middle of a vast ocean capable of producing destruction unimaginable by mankind, weíre constantly on the lookout for earthquakes that can generate one of our islandís most lethal enemies Ė the tsunami.
        I click on the link and am quickly whisked over to the news story. Itís a 7.9 on the Richter scale; the epicenter is about a hundred and thirty kilometers off the coast of Honshu, Japan. The quake was so violent that it generated a tsunami that rebounded and is on its way back to the already shaken coast. There will be more updates as more information becomes available.
        An hour and a half has passed by now. Itís nearing nine thirty. Iím enjoying a nice hot shower, slowly starting to unwind from the stress of the day, when the hissing of the shower is rudely interrupted by a piercing wail.
        I know what it is and I know what it means.
        The Civil Defense Siren is going off and that means weíre in for a tsunami Ė and a long night. The wailing continues and itís ear piercing. My house is less than half a mile away from the nearest siren tower. When that thing goes off itís like having front row seats to the opera.
        I return to my room and update the webpage. The earthquake has been upgraded in magnitude to 8.9 and thereís a tsunami headed our way. Estimated time of arrival, two fifty-nine in the morning.
        I flip on the news and watch as the lineup of stories to be featured on the local nine oí clock news is cleared. All attention is focused on what could be our impending doom.
        In 1946, Hiloís waterfront was wiped clean when a tsunami hit, wiping out the historic downtown Hilo. Banyan Drive was washed away Ė the hotels lining the coast didnít stand a chance Ė neither did most of the bystanders who stayed around to watch.
        We know what tsunamis can do and we know to be ready. The stateís attention is on the news. Anxiety grows with every passing minute. Even the news anchors seem on edge. We wait.
        Itís now ten oí clock. Thereís nothing more I can do at this point Ė if need be Iíve got my flashlights ready and the things I would want to save are all within reach (I have a small room). I have to get up early in the morning and as long as nothing major happens between now and then, Iíll be fine. My head hits the pillow and Iím soon in a deep slumber.
        Gosh darn it. My eyes snap open. The fat lady is singing again. I sit up in bed and make out the glowing digits of my clock radio. Itís ten forty-five. I lie back down in bed. Iím being too irritable. People need to be warned that thereís a tsunami on the way. Even if nothing happens everyone needs to be prepared for the worst.
        The siren dies down and I return to my pillow.
        It seems like only minutes have passed when my eyes snap open again. The siren is piercing the golden silence of the night for what seems like the millionth time. My eyes turn to the clock radio. Eleven forty-five. By now Iím starting to get an idea of how this is going to play out. The siren is going to go off every hour until the tsunami arrives.
       I think back. What did Keahi Tucker say a few hours earlier? What was the estimated time of arrival? Three in the morning? Damn.
        I lie back down. Okay. Maybe if I get deep enough into my dreams I can block out the siren. As a kid, thunderstorms never bothered me once I was sleeping soundly. Itís worth a shot.   
        Twelve forty-five. Iím awake again. It didnít work. This time I stay awake. One forty-five rolls around and Iím still awake when the siren goes off. Itís now that Iím sitting in front of the television, looping footage of chaos, destruction, and death playing before me.
        The extent of the damage is shockingly vivid on the flat screen. My eyes follow the footage as it loops over and over. The destruction is spread in high definition across the forty-two inches of my television. Itís jaw dropping how clear everything is. As a car floats by on the screen, overturned, I can even make out the characters on its license plate. I can even make out the emblem. Itís a Mitsubishi. I canít see through its windows and I donít want to. I donít want to think that the driver was trapped inside.
        Cars are overturned, boats float through streets Ė cars float through the streets. Buildings collapse. Millions are without power. Thousands are injured. Hundreds are dead.
        It should have a profound impact on me. It hits close to home. Although itís not common knowledge, I was adopted at the tender young age of six months, traveling overseas from Japan. The area hit hardest by both the earthquake and the rebounding tsunami was my birthplace Ė I think. My origins are unclear to me and Iím not sure where exactly I was born, though in all honesty, it wouldnít surprise me if some of my blood relatives are missing or have lost their lives. Iím told that I have four siblings. I donít know their names so I canít go and look them up. But how do you grieve for someone you donít know?
        Back to the news. Itís nearing three in the morning now. The first wave is expected to arrive on our shores at three twenty-one. Through live video feeds of the Waikiki shoreline I, along with the millions of others tuned in, do all we can do Ė watch and wait.
Iím lying on the floor, my head propped up with a pillow. Iím tired and the longer I stay up the more cranky I become. I have to wake up in a few hours and donít function well without my sleep.
Three twenty-one comes. Then three-thirty one Ė the waves have arrived on our shores but they donít exceed three feet. Nothingís going to happen this morning.
The television screen goes black as I hit the button the remote. Iíve done all I can; Iíve seen all Iíve desired. My heart goes out to the people of Japan and all that other formal stuff.
I retreat to my room. My head hits the pillow and I fall into a deep sleep. Iíll think about all of it when I wake up the morning.
From the Writer:
I would like to express my sympathy for the Japanese people, to those who have lost their lives and to those who have lost loved ones. Having been born in Japan and raised in Honolulu, with its strong cultural ties to almost every country around the world, weíre always reminded that we are in fact one people. Weíre all connected. When something happens to one of us it happens to all of us. Please note that although my writing may come across as cynical, by no means did I intend to offend anyone Ė and please keep those affected overseas in your hearts. Thank you ĖJosh Lee
Josh Lee
The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers