Note, wrote this between 5:15 pm and now (about 6:30) today, just to keep my hand in here. Hope you like it, although there is only a little dialogue in this one.
It had only taken a short time for the tidal wave to cover the island. It was seen offshore on its way in and ten minutes later it arrived. No one was prepared—how could they be? A massive wall of water three-hundred feet high does not take much time to cross many miles of ocean—on the other side of which a volcano had split off one side, sliding it into the ocean with a giant “kerplop!” Later, they called it a “catastrophic flank collapse,” but to me it was like dropping a ball of mud into a puddle. I know the results and could have easily imagined it on a far greater scale if I had not seen it first hand.
The scientific description of my new service would have been hilarious if there had been no one living anywhere within a thousand miles, because they had a name for the tsunami that came out of it: a “very low frequency, high impact geological event.” As it was, this “event” spelled disaster, destruction, death, and heartache beyond belief. And I would have been right in the middle of it, if I had not been in a helicopter watching the tidal wave at the exact moment it struck shore.
My name is Ailani Malia, and I worked for KFOTV as a weather person, my job being to monitor the situation from the air. That is why my crew were the first to see the tsunami coming, and why we avoided it. Afterwards, I could not tell you for sure whether I would have preferred to be in the air or on the ground. I know, that sounds strange, even bizarre, but you must remember that I had family there. In a frozen moment of time, I saw them all being inundated below the massive wall of water. It was terrible enough to make me think very hard later about the meaning of life and how precious it is. How important to cherish every moment and say everything that needs to be said today—now!
I was not thinking this when it happened, though, and in fact I was numb with fear for them. I began to weep uncontrollably, and my camera man put down the camera to console me. “No,” I shook my head, “don’t stop filming. You must get this. I’ll be all right.” I got myself together by remembering that often things are not as bad as they seem, and my natural optimism kicked in a little. But it was a hard sell as we watched the wall of water driving toward the beach with the speed of a jumbo-jet. In mere moments after it struck, the palm trees were all bent down very nearly horizontal and the roofs of the buildings along the shore were being demolished and pushed up away from the ocean, as if an incredibly huge linebacker was shoving them hard. Two by fours, and boardwalks, and glass, and every other kind of debris were all of a sudden weapons flying through the air and being whooshed around at great speed by the wave.
It became too horrible to watch, seeing people swept up like slips of paper on the water. Others further away were still running up the streets, trying desperately to escape. I could not take my eyes away, simply because this was my home, as well as my job to watch it play out and report on it. And that is what I was doing, talking into the microphone, calm now with an unearthly and unnatural calm. Like the moment before your out of control vehicle slides into the intersection—you not knowing if there will be anyone going the other way—and you feel like you are in suspended animation, watching but not thinking, not panicking but stuck in a time warp. I had that experience once, and this was the same thing.
Finally, the crest of the tsunami—which really did not look like a tsunami anymore, so much as the tide coming in a whole lot further this time—began to retreat. It had covered probably two miles of seacoast inward before this monster had had enough. Then, like a giant maw, it sucked it all back down, down toward the ocean—timber, trees, furniture, parts of houses still in tact—everything not nailed down or too heavy, including some of the people. They grabbed hold of whatever they could as they passed and clung to it for dear life.
I saw with some guilty satisfaction that the tsunami had not reached as far as where my people lived. Nonetheless, I was not relieved by this, for I had many friends, and even those whom I did not know were humans and fellow islanders. This was a catastrophe like none I had ever seen, or wanted to see again. I knew at that moment that my days were numbered here. I had lived here my entire life and, in fact, had never been off the island. But I would stay no longer than to see to those who needed my help and take care of business. It was the mainland for me. Yes, I would turn my back on my heritage, because I could not go through this again. I know, I know—there are natural disasters wherever one may live. My feeling was not rational, but it was my feeling.
A month later I had not changed my mind, although my mother, brother, and first cousin implored me to stay. I knew that they were not crazy; they were Hawaiian. I suppose that is a good enough reason to stick with your tradition and tough it out. They always call this place “paradise,” but it seemed to me there was a crack in paradise big enough to fly a jumbo-jet through. I love the ocean, the beach, everything Hawaiian. Heck, I am Hawaiian! That won’t change. I know that I could put a home on top of one of the mountains here and join the boys who stand around gambling over whose house will go to the lava flow next. That seems to be the thing to do when you are in the path of destruction: take it philosophically and live while you can. But, no thanks. They have not seen destruction from the air.
Besides, I hear that Wyoming has a lot of weather, so I should be able to find employment. I will keep the part about saying thanks and appreciating people now, but from somewhere else. After all, I do have social media.
In the meantime, I’ll have a horse and ride the range with the local cowboys. And try not to think about the beach or the sunshine. Of course, I may be the haole there—or whatever they call outsiders in Wyoming. But I hear they put on great barbecues. I’ll have my hoaloha.
Maybe when I’ve been in Wyoming a while I will change my mind. Who am I kidding? When the first snow starts falling, I'll probably head for the airport. Disasters or not, life is too short to punish myself for living and having feelings. Meme!