written by John:
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It wasn't an evening for television. I had just closed my book and looked over at the clock on my nightstand, 9:36 p.m. All was quiet, my wife had not yet returned from her literary club gathering, but she would be home soon and I wasn't worried. I turned off my reading lamp and settled into the night. I had just rounded the corner of falling when the phone rang out: My daughter, it's late, ..oh-oh. "Daddy, are you guys okay?" I thought it was she who was having trouble. "Sure, honey," I replied, "What's up?"
Pua grew up here, she knows how close the water is. "You haven't heard?" She went on to explain the terrific earthquake unleashed upon Japan earlier this day and the following tsunami alert which was now in effect for all Hawaiian islands, especially for those of us living in low lying areas. I didn't have to worry about her safety, she lives uphill from Hilo, the home of Hawaii's most recent worst tsunami in 1960, a tragic reminder of the death and destruction in the late forties.
As I said, I wasn't even aware of the Japanese terror. If I'd seen those earthquake reports, and those videos showing the great tsunami to follow this horrific plate shaker, I would not have been home to answer any calls. Glimpses of the family I lived with in Nagasaki crossed my mind. They lived at a higher elevation; relief. I wasn't going to accept Japan's fate until tomorrow.
Although I reasoned the outside protective reef barrier to Kaneohe bay that fronts my house would weaken any surge, I had not considered the impact of size and swell direction, which would have kept me awake. I stayed in bed. I wanted to get as much rest as possible before I went into action. I'd catch a few more winks because I knew I would have to be awake to tell the news to my wife when she got home.
Another call, 9:45 p.m. This time it was from a dear friend of ours who lives on the other side of the island on safe higher ground. She was worried for us. I thanked her for her concern, and said everything was fine. I was still in a fog, my wife wasn't home yet, and I went back to sleep. I wasn't going to tap my strength and energy until the wife was here safe and sound.
I heard her keys in the lock. The red numbers read 10:36. I feigned slumber, hoping for her gentle greeting caresses when she joined me. This was not going to happen. A very concerned woman enters the night, turning on lights while alerting me of the oncoming disaster. "There's been a terrible earthquake in Japan, you should see the traffic coming out from Kahalu'u, the policeman asked me where I was going...I have to turn on the television, it's supposed to hit by 3 a.m."
I had to shake the feeling about the effort we made preparing for the last tsunami, one bright and sunny morning not too long ago. My son was here then, and he soldiered us right through it. I wouldn't be in bed if he was still here.
My wife was up and I was drowsy. Three in the morning was off in a distant future, it would be here to meet us soon enough. Should things looked bad, the sweet girl would not hesitate to have me out of bed this instant. "Let me know if any real news develops," I croaked, and turned my body back towards the dark. It would not be dark for long. Lights came up, and I blinked at the hour: 2:00 a.m. on the nose, it was time. "Civil Defense units have been driving back and forth with bullhorns blaring their warnings to evacuate."
I shrugged into some shorts and grabbed a long sleeve tee-shirt, keys and wallet. Don't forget a flashlight. Candace was ready. We would take both cars to the spot where we waited out the last one. I still had our chairs and a table from that time stashed in my Blazer. The only difference this time, we would not be doing any shopping for ourselves or anyone else.
The streets were empty and the place was deserted. We were the only two on the highway. It would be here shortly, and smart people would not be on this stretch of road if they knew what was good for them. In approximately 45 minutes or thereabouts, we would see for ourselves, or perhaps feel for ourselves what might occur. It was pitch black out with thumping showers coming and going throughout our entire stay up on the hill.
I parked in front of my wife, facing the ocean, and then joined her in her car. This time, we could hear the long sirens moan as we peered out into the deep recesses between the intermittent showers. During one of those breaks we saw helicopters flying overhead in front of us and above the water. We remarked at the strength of their headlamps bursting out in front of them, illuminating the low flying clouds that would swallow them whole. Well, if it were to come, this was the morning for it. People walked by, more cars came. We turned on the radio every 20 minutes, listening for recent updates. Outrageous reports of the devastation, the worst in 300 years, eyewitness accounts, 30 and 40 foot waves; it finally dawned on me that this could be bad. All we could do was wait.
The hour arrived when Kauai was supposed to get hit. No news from that island, and then it was time for our turn. We were encouraged by reports of minimum damage around our island at that early hour, but we would find out later that there was indeed ruin and loss for some on all islands. The all clear signal would not come until 8 a.m. but we didn't want to wait. We were both pretty tired. Reports allowed that the tsunami had arrived, with minimal tidal changes to our area; still no news from Kauai. We would go back home now, briefly compare notes on all events, both tsunamis and Japan before we went to bed. "I forgot my cell phone," I told her. "I forgot my watch," she replied. "So did I."
The phone rings, a fuzzy four something reading from the clock. It's my son. "You guys all right?" "Yes, my boy, we are back home and all is G. Thank you for thinking of us. I love you." I contemplate once more the misery ahead for those suffering in Japan. I thanked our good fortune, again; a kiss of release and we sleep.
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