Thursday, 08 November 2012
The Long Night of October 27-28, 2012
By Marcy Belson
I was writing an email and Gordon had turned on the TV to watch an old rerun of Hawaii 5-0. An announcer broke in with the message about the earthquake off the coast of British Columbia and the watch of a tsunami on every island in the Hawaiian chain.
Soon after came the message that people who were close to the beach area should evacuate and move to higher ground. I had cleaned my face, put on a mu-mu, ready for bed. I looked at Gordon thinking, "We will just ride this out.” But the TV messages didn't stop and seemed to become more urgent quickly.
Gordon said, "What do you think?"
My answer was to take no chances, it was time to go.
I dressed and talked my way through gathering my medicine, jewelry, money, and my journal. I didn't pack and left behind everything else.
Gordon packed his briefcase with our return tickets, passports and paperwork. He was in the process of recharging his cell phone; I couldn't find the charger for mine and decided there was no more time to look for anything.
We closed up the house hoping the water wouldn't be inside if we returned. That had happened in a 1981 storm and all the appliances had been replaced.
As we walked down the cottage pathway away from the beach, a neighbor's inside light beckoned us. Gordon knocked and a woman carrying a half empty bottle of wine opened the door.
No, she wasn't leaving. She felt she was far enough away from the water - maybe another 20 feet further inland. She probably was a local with enough experience to be willing to chance it. I, on the other hand, thought of Japan and that terrible disaster and knew we were leaving.
A young Japanese man came out of another cottage pushing his expensive aluminum luggage. He said they had just arrived; he looked so tired.
I told him we were going to head for higher ground at the Scofield Barracks area and he nodded and disappeared into the darkness of the car park area.
I was the driver with Gordon giving me instructions at every roundabout. There was a steady stream of cars in front and behind us. In the dark, that was all you could see - a snake of headlights all traveling slowly in both directions.
We wondered why anyone would be traveling toward instead of away from the low lying coastline. Later, we realized, some of them didn't have any fear, some were hurrying home to pick up family or pets or important items and some were just out on a Saturday night.
I pulled into a McDonald's parking lot in Wailea thinking food, bathroom, a lighted area to be safe. There we sat, sleeping in brief snatches, listening to the sirens and radio for news. Lots of ambulances and fire trucks passed heading out and then shortly, coming back with the sirens screaming.
McDonalds was packed with people. One woman came out with her sack and said it had taken an hour to get food.
About 11PM, we decided the worst had come and gone and we started back to the beach. We didn't get far. The road was barricaded, a volunteer with a reflective jacket was standing in the road telling drivers to turn around.
There were probably 50 cars parked on both sides of the highway, lights off, and a few women scurrying to the privacy of the fields for a bathroom stop. We parked between two cars and sat there for perhaps 30 minutes knowing that it was going to be a very long night.
Finally, knowing I couldn't go traipsing into a field with my artificial hip, we drove back into town and the welcome Big Mac. Now the fast food joint was closing. They were a 24-hour operation; I think they must have run out of food.
I tried the door. Locked, but a child opened it for me and I went inside with all the other people sitting at tables. An old man was mopping the floor with a sign saying the bathrooms were closed.
I walked right through, with employees yelling at me. My comment to them was that it was a very poor choice to close down a bathroom under the present circumstances. When I came out, the old man offered his arm and helped me through the wet floor area. I guess they figured it out.
A working girl came down the street with a little mongrel dog on a lease. She was wearing short shorts, high heels and a sequined strapless top with long hair teased into a Dolly Parton "do" and a big sequined scarf that she waved.
She tied the little dog to a post and went inside Big Mac. The little dog barked incessantly, right next to our car.
Groups of young people gathered in the parking lot laughing and yelling as cars drove by. These were not tourists, but local people just out on a Saturday night.
One AM came and the radio announcer said the roads had been opened. The governor, the mayor and who knows how many civil defense people had given the all clear that the barricades were being dismantled.
We started back only to find ourselves in a caravan of cars traveling 30 mph, then slower and finally a full stop on the road. When we reached the bottleneck an hour later, it was a single stoplight at a roundabout. The remains of a crash were visible. I missed the correct turn off, had to make a U turn in a private driveway and tried again.
When we pulled into our parking spot at 2:45AM, it appears we were the only missing car. The entire complex was dark. Our cottage was warm after being completely closed before we left. No water, no damage, the ocean was just the same.
An exciting experience? No, thanks. We are far too old to deal with lost sleep and night-time driving under tiring circumstances. But, we live to enjoy another day in Hawaii. Time for a good fish lunch! All those crazy kids at Big Mac will be home, asleep.
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