Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seems Like Old Times...

So, I sat in my home office in the Western suburbs of Chicago yesterday (Saturday) morning and watched the online coverage of the tsunami in Hawaii...which is still "home."

It brought back memories of a day in 1960 when we woke up to the devastation of the last major tsunami to hit Hilo. My Auntie Olive and cousin Rodney showed up at our house, both visibly shaken. They had seen that half of our little town was gone, smashed into rubble.

My brother, G, and Rodney walked down to Keawe Street. The land rises up from the bayfront just makai (seaward) of the street. It was as if a giant arm had swept the buildings and anything else up against the rise. The second story of our Boy's Club building was sitting on the ground just behind the remains of the concrete foundation. The first floor was just gone, missing.

We just stood and looked...stunned. How could this have happened?

My mom had stayed up the night before. The tsunami was supposed to hit around midnight. She later said she just fell asleep just before 1:00am. She didn't hear the screams of the people or the sound of the buildings being smashed by a 30-foot wall of water that hit the shoreline at several HUNDRED miles per hour.

It was the third wave that was the killer. The first two were just minor floods. I have a book that our local newspaper put out about the tsunami. In it are pictures of people laughing and playing in the water from the first two waves. There are NO pictures of the third wave.

Many people died that night in Hilo. One woman woke up on the roof of the Hilo Theatre. Several tourists, curious about the tusnami, were on the bayfront.

I walked around that day...and the next few days...just looking at the now empty land that had held familiar buildings just the day before: Moto's Inn, one of our favorite restaurants, home of the famous Hilo "gravy burger" was just completely gone. It had been in the middle of where the wave hit. Kitagawa, our service station/Plymouth dealer also gone. The Boy's Club, as I said before. And, of course, that icon of Hilo, the Hilo Theater and it's wonderful organ. Oh, the building was still there, but the double steel doors that were behind the screen couldn't hold back the wave and the theatre was gutted. And those are the ones I remember well. There were many, many more that were just GONE.

After that, the City and County left the area open land. No buildings. Most new building was done further inland. But the core of Hilo, the old shopping are was still there. On one side of Mamo Street, there was nothing but devastation; on the other, the buildings were OK. That's how directional the wave was.

So, yesterday brought back a lot of memories. I watched the online news and video feeds most of the day. Modern technology and the web...amazing. I watched the live video feed from Hilo Bay, with the camera focused on Coconut Island. I put my hand on the screen, trying to "feel" home again.

In the end, the tsunami was a non-event. Some were disappointed that they didn't get to see a tsunami. Well, I for one am glad I didn't see one yesterday. A good day for Hawaii after all.

So, we still have snow on the ground. But the temperatures are rising and today should be "warm"...near 40 degrees. Woo Hoo!!

A hui hou...