5 Am, a phone call wakes me up. It’s Draper. Uh! She knows I’m in Hawaii, which must be anywhere from 2 – 8 hours behind her, depending on where she was in the world. Like me, she has nomadic tendencies. I ignored it, thinking I needed more beauty sleep. 30 seconds later, text from Draper “OMFG – Are you evacuating?” My brain hadn’t powered up yet… I assumed she was responding to a text I sent her earlier this week regarding accidentally setting off the fire alarm in my hotel room. … which is a story I wont be blogging about, sorry. SO… in my early morning stupour… I ignored that too. ( Sorry Drapes!)
Since I was partially up, I began my morning ritual of checking the news on my blackberry and the blood drained from my face. A tsunami was expected to hit the islands of the state of Hawaii at approx 11am. I had 6 hours.
What do you do with 6 hours? Do I run to get to higher ground, or try to catch a flight out and risk getting caught in pandemonium traffic?? Do I stock up on food? Do I spend the time speaking to loved ones? Initial thoughts that raced through my brain were a mix of crazy, more crazy, then rational, and then more rational.
My hotel, The Westin Moana Surfrider, had cleared out two of the towers except for mine, as mine was the newest and built to withstand the test of 600mph water at jet-speed, so I’m assuming, as I wasn’t evacuated. I was feeling touched by all the love, colleagues in Hawaii connected to make sure I was okay and offer help. I weighed my choices and decided to stay at the hotel. I thought, If I’m going down, it’s going to be in the lap of my luxurious 1 bedroom suite with two balconies overlooking the water…. dammit. 🙂 In all seriousness, the toughest part about travelling for a living is all the alone time. It’s at times like these that I most wish, I wasn’t alone.
I remember the previous night, while sitting on the beach watching the calming water, I had updated my twitter status praying for the people of Chile as soon as I had heard about the serious earthquake that had struck, not realizing that this action in the Pacific Ring of Fire could affect Hawaii the very next morning. I thought of how special and memorable this place was for me, even my beloved hotel suite which I requested to stay in again, as it was where my mom and I had stayed together on my last trip to Honolulu. It was here that I saw my mother, who has been ill for years, truly be joyous again and have a renewed joie de vivre. This place would always be memorable.
Not even 8 hrs later, I was on the phone with my sister, giving her contact info for colleagues “just in case” and asking her to call my mother and ease the news to her before someone else called her up freaked out after watching the news. Speaking to my sister my mother and my two best friends and nieces the way I had to that morning almost broke me. I’m a pretty tough girl who usually would never admit this, but I’m not going to lie. I cried. Just for a min, but I did.
Armed with a laptop, 2 blackberries and a camera I sat on that beautiful balcony. The same balcony on which once mom and I shared tim-bits namak-paare and chai, I sat waiting. The news was on full blast. The neighbouring balconies all full of people getting their cameras ready. The beach deserted. Choppers circling and further announcing for everyone to…get out of the water, which had changed colour. The boats had moved far away into the ocean leaving the water near the beach free of everything, except for 2 very determined surfer-dudes committed to riding the ultimate wave. I started twittering only to be informed by my other tweeps that my tweets were mentioned by MSNBC. All aside, that was pretty cool. I guess I have arrived as a twitterer.
I had never felt so loved in my life. By 10 am the rushes of phone calls, Facebook messages, smses, and tweets overwhelmed me. Some uber-supportive and loving calls really touched me, others just killed me with hilarious recommendations. ” Do you have access to a really big stick you can hang on to?” not intended to be funny and delivered with the most concern and love. My favorite was “Maybe the Canadian Embassy can have you air-lifted out?”. I had family and friends praying for me all over the world ( thank you with all my heart, I love you all so much), and I truly believe that it was the power of those prayers that saved the state of Hawaii that day. Chile and Japan had both been struck with earthquakes, and there were tsunami warnings from Alaska all the way down to California. Hawaii was merely dot in the middle of the very troubled Pacific.
Eventually, being mentally numb at this point, I had to stop answering phone calls, also just to keep my phones charged and ready. Who knows what would happen? Who knows what the aftermath would be like? The news, as expected was no help whatsoever and delayed in the information that I had already received online and from wonderful fellow twitterers. I kept on getting more requests to keep twittering and keep posting pics, and that kept me busy through it all, but I was so over it by 11 am when after 6 hours of grief, I was still just waiting. My mind, body and spirit just exhausted and completely shaken. I did what any girl would do in a situation like this. I booked a massage for later that day.
It’s times like these that you learn most about yourself. I have always been strong in situations of adversity. Always stately and composed through whatever, and feeling the aftershocks later. It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized physically the weight of what I had endured mentally. I checked out completely with some much deserved time off, of course until my next trip which happens to also be within the Pacific Ring of Fire.