Tsunami 2011, my story

a house on the Big Island is swept out by the tsunami

My husband stopped me mid sentence as he stared at his computer.

“Um, there was a 8.9 earthquake in Japan.”

We immediately did what many did and turned on CNN. And then we saw it. The tsunami completely overtaking towns in Japan.

It was devastating. Enormous. Unfathomable. It resembled a movie. But sadly, it was real.

We soon realized that Hawaii was under a tsunami watch, then warning, then alert.

Our cell phone lines became jammed, no texts or calls went through. Twitter, Facebook, email and the Internet as a whole were my only source of communication with family who were also watching the events 2,500 miles away in California. My sister in Michigan, along with much of the East Coast was sleeping.

Meanwhile no sleep was to be had for us. I immediately ran to get gas and some food, beating the lines that later formed.

We let the kids continue to sleep as we watched wide-eyed, what was happening in Japan. The videos running over and over again. Newscasters in Hawaii giving us important information on what to expect. Many noting…

“This one is different”

Yes, it was. It felt closer. Many Japanese visit Hawaii, we see them year after year, they are our neighbors. And when you watched the tsunami and it’s devastation in Japan, you just knew, you MUST take this seriously.

I brewed some coffee for the long night ahead, cleaned dishes, got things packed – clothes and important papers included.

We waited until after the siren rang at 1:16 a.m. to wake the kids, we didn’t want to scare them. They had miraculously slept through the handful of sirens that rang out prior.  We whispered in their ears, “Come on guys, we’re going to go for a little ride to see the sunrise”

If ever it was ok to fib to your kids, now was the time.

We drove up the hill above our house, passing people sleeping in their cars while others stood in the streets chatting. The mood was calm, jovial, chill, surreal – with the sounds of car radios permanently stuck on the a.m. radio listening to the news.

It was then that we told the kids that there may be a tsunami. And they got it. We had been through this before. Just over one year prior. They helped gather some stuff and then when the tsunami was to hit we left our car and walked further up the hill.

Now, we actually live in what they say is a safe zone. In fact we are first street in the safe zone, the first slope – my neighbors below us, who are at the same level as my yard…they evacuated.

We also had friends offer us a place to go and perhaps (now looking back) we should have.  At the time I didn’t want to get stuck on the highway, I just wanted to get up.

As we walked further up the hill with flashlights in hand (it was 3 a.m.) we picked up a few foreign tourists. We said “hi” and then they just followed us. I held my flashlight low and stayed back just a bit so that they could also see. We didn’t know them, hadn’t been introduced but we were knew that they were with us now.

Once higher, we put some towels down. The dog laid down, the kids used him as a pillow and there we were, the five of us squatting in the middle of some old cane fields…with two tourists who spoke little English standing near by.

We waited for updates, via twitter and the radio on our phones. We heard about the surges in Oahu, Diamond Head’s reef being exposed. We waited.

After a while people went home. We walked back down, the tourists followed us. And when we got to our car, we smiled, they said “thank you” in broken English and we said goodbye.

We headed home, slept for two hours and then spent the day as a family. All schools on island were closed. Hawaii escaped with relatively little yet some very real damage.

Saturday we headed to the beach and still saw small surges.  The beach went from high tide to low tide and back again in record time. Seems the bathtub of the earth is still settling down.

So that’s our story, my story. Relatively mellow, and for that I am thankful.

My thoughts, prayers and deepest of condolences go out the people of Japan. If you would like to help:



  1. I am so glad that you were all safe!

  2. :hugs: Sarah. The story actually brought me to tears – trying to remain calm and not knowing what to expect for you AND the kids AND the dog. I am just happy you’re safe!

  3. I think of you all the time and pray that you are safe. It seems your paradise has had its share of scares lately. give the kiddos kisses from me and shae

  4. I thought of you immediately when I got up and heard the news. I pulled up Twitter and there you were! Gotta love Social Media! I’m so glad you are all OK!!

  5. How scary! After seeing what happened in Japan, I would be imaganing the worse. Glad you are okay.

  6. So glad to hear you guys are all ok – I was on twitter at about 8 a.m. my time when I saw your tweets that you were on a hill behind your house – couldn’t believe it! Was thinking it would be so hard to be doing that at that hour, especially with little ones!

  7. amandakrill says:

    RT @TheOhanaMama: [New Post] Tsunami 2011, my story – via #twitoaster http://theohanamama.com/2011/03/tsunami-

  8. I’m so glad you and your family are okay. I thought about you when I heard the news.

  9. I thought of you often over the past few days and I am so happy to hear that you are okay. I am praying for all of the people and families affected by the earthquake and tsunami. ((hugs))

  10. Glad to hear you guys are safe and sound!

  11. bportlandslider says:

    RT @TheOhanaMama: [New Post] Tsunami 2011, my story – via #twitoaster http://theohanamama.com/2011/03/tsunami-

Leave a Comment