Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Another siren blast, slashing the silence of the night. It's been the sixth one, and I don't
think I will sleep tonight. The tsunami wave coming from Japan's earthquake is scheduled to reach Hawaii's islands around 3:40 a.m. Every thirty minutes, the sirens remind us that the threat is real. Maybe living so close to the ocean was not such a good idea after all.
Walking back from the beach after sunset time, we had no idea what was coming. Laughter and giggles were filling the room as I was slicing through tomatoes and bell peppers. After dinner and a long bedtime ceremony made of songs and stories, my daughter Molly was finally in bed. As my husband Olivier and I were ready to watch a movie, I received the news like a stab in the chest. A friend texted me, "come to our house if you need shelter."
Living in the middle of the Pacific makes you very aware of your surroundings and the vulnerability of our position isolated in the middle of an immense ocean. As I screen over every website talking about the tsunami, all I can see on social media are friends, neighbors exchanging information about shelters and evacuation routes. A knot started to tighten its grip around my stomach, crawling up my throat. "What do we do?" I ask Olivier more in search of reassurance than an answer.
The state civil defense ordered all coastal areas to be evacuated by 2 a.m. We are living pretty close to the beach, but is it close enough to be in danger? After opening all the drawers and cabinets, I finally find the phonebook where I remember seeing evacuation routes once. Following the red lines limiting the flooding zone, I realize that our street is half in. I want a yes or a no, not a maybe. I turn to Olivier and ask:
"Do you think we should leave? We are at the edge of the zone."
"No. No need. We're fine."
I don't know if I want to shake him or hug him. Are we really safe? I need to come back to my senses. Molly is sleeping and has no idea of the situation. Our only way out, the highway, is crowded by people scared for their life. Where is the line between panic and common sense?
Looking at the clock every ten minutes, I feel like watching a ticking countdown for the ocean to visit us. Like an animal waiting for its predator, I am listening for any unusual noises, picking through the bamboo to see if there is any water, smelling the air searching for the rich earthy scent of wetland. Nothing. I finally close my eyes as the sun rises over Haleakala.