Friday, March 11, 2011


On September 11 of 1992 I was on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. It was the last day of a two week Hawaiian vacation that my now ex-husband and I had enjoyed. We were awakened at about 4 a.m that morning by a hotel staffer.

Hurricane Iniki, which had been charted to miss the island completely, had changed course during the night and was now headed straight for Kauai's south shore, where we now sat rubbing the sleep out of our eyes.

Such a giant storm for such a tiny island. See where it says "Lihue?" That's exactly where we went after leaving the hotel.

I bring this up today because of the monster earthquake and tsunamis that hit Japan this morning.

I listened to the news most of the day. How countries as far away as ours had issued tsunami warnings. Santa Cruz, here on my own coast, actually had some damage from aftermath tsunamis. A friend this morning asked me if I was OK with it and, being a total goob (sorry, Mindy, I completely misunderstood because I am a goob), thought she was talking about my recent bad mood of the week past. Anyway, the other thread that caught my ear in the reporting today was how the Japanese people were not panicked and freaking out. They were prepared. They are helping each other. The government has stepped in and is actively supporting the efforts of the people.

And this struck a chord in my memory of Hurricane Iniki.

I was at the Kauai War Memorial during and after the hurricane. It turned out to be the best shelter on the island. The first night it was full of tourists, about 20 percent of them Japanese. The very next morning after the hurricane, which had ended at about 8:30 p.m. the night before, the Japanese people were herded together, lined up and bussed out of the shelter in school busses. They were taken to, I believe it was a military dock. Not sure. But the Japanese government had immediately dispatched two naval vessels to pick up their citizens and take them home. The rest of us cooled our heels for three more days, scrubbing toilets and eating powdered eggs, after the Taco Bell and other defrosting restaurants' food was eaten.

The only reason we were flown out first was because we were in the best shelter on the island and they needed it for the residents.

I have to say that after this and after hearing about the gentle spirit of the Japanese people in the aftermath of this current disaster, that Japan seems to take far better care of itself and its citizens than we do here in the States. (citing our own hurricanes and their aftermaths here).

This further led me to reflect on how, as a church global, we have failed in inspiring this same kind of outreach and care after disasters, in our fellow citizens. Much less our own government who goes only so far, then stands back behind the fence of bureaucracy.

We have pockets of kindness and certainly many groups who raise lots of money, and show up for the cameras and sound bites. But only a few who steadfastly hang in until the last bit is mopped up and the last boo boo is bandaided. And so often, it could be much more help than it is.

Maybe it's because there are so many more of us than of them and their number is easier to manage. I have no idea. I only know it made me wish for this kind of a society everywhere. A society and government that drops absolutely everything and rushes in to help and stays until the job is done.

These "every person for themselves" "Best just take care of yourself, no one else is gonna help you" and "The Lord helps those who help themselves" attitudes are plain mean, in my opinion. Cold and hard-assed.  I don't find it "tough" at all. I find it cowardly.

No, I don't want to move to Japan. Not a big fan of sushi, and those clog shoes kill my feet. But I sure admire their spirit in the wake (you should pardon the pun) of this disaster today. Oh that we could learn some of that over here.

Cause I do believe we're going to need it soon.


Deena said...

Well said, Presby-gal! I managed to move from Cali shortly before the Northridge quake and thus missed that one, but did live thru another of others during my 1st 40 years in So Cal...didn't realize how deeply rooted some of those feelings were until viewing pictures from todays quake in Japan. Had me in near tears, identifying with the pain of people in other countries viewing their homeland's disaster on TV's and their deep concern and fears for family members etched on their faces, among other things, and remembering my father's fear and concern during the Sylmar quake when he -- being out of state at the time -- was unable to reach us in the Valley, or his mom and sister in Newhall/Saugus areas...No comparison in reality, today's quake was many, many times worse, it just surprised me the depth of emotion it awoke in me. I also noted how utterly calm the people seemed to be, while I felt panicky just looking at still photo's! Kudo's to the Japanese people as a whole, and for all the reasons you mention in your well-written summation!

Mary Beth said...

"Cause I do believe we're going to need it soon."

Very afraid you are right.

Terri said...

well said indeed! thank you forthis reflection PG.

zorra said...

Just checking in. Thanks.