Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Tsunami and the Rising Tide, or, My Less Than Triumphant Return

So, how about a little current history on our family? As a wee lad of 19 years old, I had the great fortune of being called to serve a mission for my church in Japan. The coolest part was that I was sent to Laie, Hawaii for two months to learn Japanese. We landed in Honolulu in late August, 1973. There were about 12 of us missionaries and a driver from Fiji. We loaded ourselves into a big navy blue van and drove up the highway past Waikiki. As a young man from southern Utah, I had never seen anything like the blue sky next to the white sand with the green coconut trees waving in the wind. I was mesmerized by the surf and the crashing waves. I vowed at that moment someday I would return.

Well, as Alisa texted to her children on March 9, 'Someday is here!" The stars somehow aligned themselves, and the two of us were off on a trip to Kauai. However, there is a little background you need to know about. When circumstances presented themselves where a cool vacation became a real possibility we first considered a return to either Hawaii or Japan, where I lived for 2 years. We have good friends in Japan, who have visited us here in the U.S. and whom we still correspond with. They are getting up in age, so we thought it would be good to go there.

We checked into airline tickets and possible accommodations. As the departure date drew closer, however, I became a little anxious about this decision. I don't know about you, but we always pray about major purchases, like houses, cars, etc. before we make them. This was more of a major purchase than I anticipated, so I suggested to Alisa that we pray about it and talk about it in the morning. I have always found it very useful to pray about something and let it sit for the night before making a major decision. Well, the next morning I did not feel good about the decision, so we 'settled' for Hawaii. We got our tickets, and soon the day of departure arrived.

We left Seattle on the morning of March 9, after a quick visit with our daughter and her family. We landed in Kauai about 9 that evening and checked into our hotel on the Coconut Beach near Kapa'a. I was so excited the next morning, that I arose in time to take pictures of the sunrise. It was awesome. We spent the day on the beaches and playing in the ocean along the east shore.

After a nice seafood dinner, we went to bed early. We had a boat tour planned early the next day along the NaPali coast. Just prior to retiring, I clicked the TV remote. On CNN we saw terrifying footage of the after effects of the Tokyo earthquake. We saw buildings shake and glass plummet from skyscrapers and shatter on the streets. Next, we witnessed the horrific images of the tsunami as it swept into Sendai. Houses were flattened, business exploded as ships were driven across them. There are no words to describe the horror of watching cars full of fleeing people swept away.

Our shock was soon broken by a message across the bottom of the screen that announced that Hawaii, along with other Pacific Ocean locales, were under a tsunami warning. Before long, that was changed to a tsunami watch. The tsunami was expected to hit Kauai between 3 and 5 a.m.

Just after 10:00 p.m., a siren sounded. We were evacuated to the Kapa'a middle school. Thanks to my Christmas gift from my daughter in Seattle, we used our Garmin GPS to navigate the roads. On our way, we saw long lines of vehicles blocking lanes of the highway, waiting to fill their tanks with gas. We had a compact car and it was only 1.6 miles, so we toughed it out and drove past them. We were one of the first 10 cars to pull into the parking lot.

This is a picture of people that were evacuated. We spent the night between a covered gym/cafeteria and our car. Most sat glued to the television awaiting word of the tsunami. It hit Kauai at 5:07. A buoy in the ocean measured the wave at about 5 feet. Live cams broadcasted scenes of coastlines. There really was not much to be seen. After a half hour or so, there was some reports of minor flooding in Maui, in Hanalei, and Port Allen.

We were allowed to return to our hotel about 8 a.m. Our morning boat ride was cancelled. From the news reports, we thought this was much ado about nothing. However, we were quite surprised at what we saw. Sea level was at least 12 feet below the crest of the beach at our hotel. However, the debris line on the hotel's lawn clearly revealed that the waves had risen at least to that level. Our room was on the ground floor. It was about 3 feet higher in altitude than the height achieved by the tsunami.

This is the same beach as the one in the picture above after the tsunami. We heard another story from a lady staying at the St. Regis hotel on the north shore. She and her husband were evacuated to the 9th floor. She stood in the lobby (which is on the 9th floor) and filmed and watched the tsunami. She said the first wave was not all that big, but it was one symmetrical ripple that crashed against the shore. Then, the water abated, leaving hundreds of yards of coral exposed. After a few minutes, a much larger wave came. It was big enough that it hit the hotel, but it did not cause any damage.

After all of this we were grateful for many things. First, we were grateful that we were safe and that there was no damage. Second, we were very grateful to our Heavenly Father. We could have been on the bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto. We were going to spend the night of the 9th, and possibly the 10th, in Tokyo. No one will ever know what we would have experienced, but you know what, I am grateful that we never will. We are so thankful to our Father in Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who listen to and answers our prayers.

We are also very sad for the good people of Japan. Their country has been so devastated. We pray that they will find solace and peace, along with warmth and food. It is a real tragedy. Thankfully, the area where our friends live did not suffer extensive damage. We await the time we will be able to talk with them. We cannot know why disasters such as this earthquake and tsunami occur. We can only pray that we can learn from them and improve our lives.

By the way, the rest of our vacation was absolutely wonderful. We can't wait to return, and go to Japan, someday!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you are safe too and that you pray about major purchases. The sun looks good on you :)