Apr 15, 2011

3/11/11 - Earthquake Journal

Five days ago, Monday, we had the one-month "anniversary" of the quake.  The base had a one-minute long "Moment of Silence" at 2:46 p.m.   Since then the base has started playing the Japanese and American National Anthems again at 1630 as usual.   I haven't looked to see if the flags are still at half-mast.

Thursday marked our 1,000 aftershock since 3/11.  (Or "pre-shock" before the next big quake according to some.)   In an e-mail this morning, I read that they've lifted the "voluntary departure" and they're going to start arranging for people to come home.  And life goes on.  This morning I read a copy of Doug's "earthquake journal".  It reminded me that I never finished or published mine.  It's a little long, but I wanted it recorded.

Here it is:

Friday:  Quake hit at 2:46.  It was even bigger than the one two days previous.  I was already upstairs so I immediately grabbed Gray out of his crib.  Gabe, downstairs, was scared and started crying and looking for me.  We met on the stairs and stayed huddled in the stairwell.   Probably not the best idea, but I figured if the ceiling started coming down, we'd just run right out the front door.  And there was nothing near that could fall or shatter on us.  The big boys walked in from school in the middle of it and I yelled at them to go back outside.  (We had just received an Earthquake Protocol email following the previous quake.  It said "If you're outside, stay outside.")  The boys were all smiles thinking it was "cool".
I did NOT think it was cool.  It lasted SIX MINUTES and the whole time I was praying "Please protect my family.  Please protect my family..."

Evidently a neighbor saw some teenagers act like they were surfing when the sidewalk was rolling.

I tried to update "Facebook" with a message about the quake, (something like "Okay, that earthquake was NOT COOL!  I'm ready to get off this island!") but the power was already out and didn't come back on for over two days.  At this point, (obviously) we had NO idea how bad things were in other areas or that a tsunami was coming.  We got shaken pretty badly, but didn't sustain any significant damage on base--besides the power going out.  (I heard later that water was pouring out of the doors of the Himberg Pool building.)

Doug came home at 4.  I was so happy to have him home so that all of my family was with me:  "safely gathered in".  I had already found one 72-hour kit and put it by the door.  When Doug came home, I was frantically searching for our "can safe" containing $1,000 in dollars and yen.  I finally found it in the pantry and we put it somewhere handy.

Around 5:30 we went off-base to see if there was power or an open restaurant.  We didn't know how bad anything was and I was really wanting a hot, comforting meal.  Once we realized lights were out all over town, we drove to Tami's house to see how they were doing.  She was already making plans to come over to us, so we headed back home.  I got the only "meat" we had out of the freezer--five small salmon fillets--and grilled them on the BBQ with some carrots which I steamed in foil.  (Realizing, when we saw the whole town was dark that power might not be back on any time soon--better cook the perishables.)  Turns out couscous just needs to be added to boiling water so that was super easy and much quicker than rice.  (I was looking for something filling.)  Used the single burner camp stove on the kitchen counter to boil water for it.  And even made hot chocolate for the kids.  By the time we ate, Tami and kids were here and the kids were just running around like crazy.   (Of course, Wes was still at work and we barely saw him for days to come.) No movie or music to turn on to get them all settled or entertained, so while the moms were stressing, they were running laps around the house gleefully.

Since Doug is the Elder's Quorum President, Branch President B. (the leader of our local church branch--same as a Bishop, just for a smaller congregation) came over to coordinate how they would track down all the church members.   I fed the adults the salmon and the kids had sandwiches.  Wes had gone into work and wasn't back yet.  Even though he's on his way out of Misawa soon, he still manages to shoulder a lot of responsibility and is always working (or flying) loooooong hours.  I was so glad to have Tami to keep me company because I immediately got stressed when Doug left.  One thing you don't anticipate.  In a major emergency situation like this, even if you're not separated from your husband, your husband might get called to help with relief efforts.

Doug and some other men from church went out to make sure every branch member was safe and accounted for.  People from work were doing the same thing--trying to get 100% accountability for everyone on base.  This is something they practice for when they have "exercises".

Eventually we got the kids all settled by candle light.  Madeleine got to have a "slumber party" in Gabey's room.  Cameron got Gray's room (Gray moved to our room for the first night) and Camille slept down in the family room with Tami and Wes.  (One on the couch, one on the spare twin bed, Camille on the Lazy Boy.)

The house was getting colder by the minute, the temperature went below zero that night, but we had plenty of blankets and body heat to keep warm.  All were safely gathered in.


deila taylor said...

Thanks for recording this, it is very interesting, a little slice of what was going on in another part of the world, during a scare.

Lisa said...

Does this mean everyone is evacuating?

I just read your last post as well. I can't believe Sammy carried that around for so long. I can totally see how you would think a tsunami was a monster too. You guys are going to need some serious R&R once you get back to the states!

acte gratuit said...

No, it means they're no longer allowing the voluntary departure and they're going to start bringing people home now! Good news!

Claudia said...

Did we ever say Happy Birthday to Gray? If not please tell him for us! Grandpa got behind on the purchase of Disney Dollars but we are getting caught up now. I do hope life is getting back to some kind of normal.


tree*head said...

My 22 yo son has orders to Misawa in May. He is currently in Germany. I am terrified for him and I think deep down he is too. I found your blog through howdoesshe.com and I am so glad I did. Thank you for the posts and sharing your experiences. I'll still worry (don't
we always as moms?) but knowing you all have made it safely so far puts me a a tad bit at ease :)