Breath Held

I wrote this earlier today: “Eerie: the sound of 900,000 people holding their breath.”

The tsunami warning ended up amounting to nothing at all, thankfully, but that was a hell of a way to wake up. I had roughly 20 voicemails/texts awaiting me when I awoke at 6am; I thought the baby was up because she was hungry but now I think she woke up with the town’s emergency sirens. Those rang out every hour until the late morning. The live-cam on Waikiki showed that the water had retreated out past the sand bar and reef and we got really worried.

A lot of our friends on the coast were evacuated and given doomsday information; one wrote that their house was dead in the path of the inundation area and would have been completely wrecked had there been flooding. Everyone we know who was evacuated was evacuated sometime between 4am and 6am; they got back home mid-afternoon.

It was creepy, how still the town was. Everything was so quiet and all the reports from the road were dead. Everything had been cleared and evacuated. There were people tailgating in our town’s center waiting to go home and picnicking on the side of parking lots, waiting to know if we were going to be Southeast Asia or an overreaction. Counting the other islands, it was a million people holding their breath, the sound of a silence as heavy as a lead apron.

My main concern was the airport. Would Tom get back from New Zealand? (He emailed moments ago, when he discovered the free internet at Sydney but I had no way whatsoever to contact him.) If he was delayed in Sydney, would I still be able to fly out to DC on Monday? Making a decision that should surprise no one who knows me, I decided come hell or literal high water, I was going to get Maggie and me back to the mainland and I didn’t care how or what I had to do, but I was going to get us on a plane to DC. And furthermore, I was going to finish my pre-packing to-do list and I would create a washboard out of my wooden IKEA wine rack and hand-wash my underthings in the tub if I had to. Mother-fuck the tsunami; a tidal wave wasn’t going to keep me from fresh socks.

You totally want to be in a natural disaster with me. Anticipating major power outages (which didn’t occur), I busted out as much laundry as I could, filled all our water bottles and a few jugs of water and filled the tub in case we needed extra cooking/flushing/wash water. I also prepared several days worth of ready-to-go meals for Maggie and popped them in the fridge. This took all of an hour, then I put on coffee for any houseguests coming up to the central plateau for a tsunami evac party. The only problem was that I fell asleep before the first warnings were issued last night, then the baby was napping and I had so much laundry to do that I had no time to get beer for guests. But it all worked out okay.

Thankfully it was just a fantastic fire drill and aside from Maui losing their water for a while, there was no damage or injuries. But man, it was scary for a while. Knowing I had no way to contact my husband, that I would need to pull this together on my own. Knowing my friends’ homes might be in very real danger. Hawaii’s my home, the only place I could love more is Maine, and I was scared it would be hurt.

But it’s okay, no waves and no harm, and I learned a lot about figuring things out on my own. One of the big overarching fears in my life as a (temporary, contingent upon economy) stay-at-home mom is “What happens if something happens to Tom?” Can my skills support my daughter? Will I be able to manage our finances well enough to give our daughter everything she deserves? Will I be able to see clearly enough in an emergency to see what needs to be done and do it in an efficient manner?

Today I realized I can do it. In a short-term crisis and over the long haul, I can find the will and the way to take care of this family on my own. And once I realized that, I finally could let out my breath.

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