The signs of spring are everywhere: gardenia perfuming my house, the honohono orchid hanging outside the front door in sweet profuse bloom, limu hugging the rocks at my favorite beach, plumeria flowers popping out on the trees, luscious cainito waiting on the table to be eaten.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, there are other signs, signs we really don’t want to see, signs of the fate that inevitably and inexorably awaits us on the day, or night, when a major tsunami actually does arrive; signs that nuclear power clearly is not the way to go.
That knowing was there, in the back, if not front, of our minds once the mayor gave the “all clear” yesterday and it contributed, along with the bleariness of disrupted or minimal sleep, to the blank numbness that seemed to permeate the day.
We couldn’t slip back into total denial, not after seeing the video footage of the tsunami coming ashore in Japan — footage that made it clear all our coastal development is rooted in the fantasy that we who live on these tiny dots in the Pacific are somehow immune, even safe, from the forces of nature.
We’d seen it before, in the Indonesian tsunami, but it was easier to distance ourselves from that disaster, in a place that we consider “third world,” and so prone to shoddy construction and inadequate evacuation procedures that heightened the death toll and destruction.
It was somehow different, more sobering, to see photos of intense devastation and videos of the lingering damage in neat, orderly, modern Japan.
Or maybe it hit harder because it hadn’t been all that long since the Indonesia tsunami, and the Japan quake came on the heels of other temblors in the Ring of Fire, which fed the nagging unease that perhaps more might be on their way.
“It’s been another drill for Kauai, and each time we improve,” said KONG DJ Ron Wiley, and perhaps that’s true.
Perhaps now the county and Civil Defense know they need to have places where people can go as soon as an evacuation warning is issued so folks don’t have to sit in their cars on Kawaihau Road getting eaten by mosquitoes in the dark.
Perhaps now the county and Kauai Visitors Bureau are more aware of the vulnerability of tourists staying in all those vacation rentals, where they have no hotel staff to tell them what to do, where to go.
Perhaps county planners and elected officials have a deeper understanding of just how foolhardy it is to permit all those “sleeps 12” mini resorts a few dozen feet from the shoreline — especially the ones with illegal, enclosed downstairs units.
Perhaps we all will heed this wake up call and take steps to be better prepared for the likelihood that fuel, food and water — in short, life as we know it — could be disrupted for an indefinite amount of time.
Or perhaps we’ll allow ourselves to drift into the pleasantness of spring and fall back asleep....
In closing, I have to share something I heard that really annoyed me while listening to the radio yesterday morning after the tsunami warning was lifted. The DJs were talking about what was opening and what would remain closed when Tom Clements, the public information officer for PMRF, called in.
Since county water safety officers had advised people to stay out of the ocean for the remainder of the day, he said, “we won’t be allowing anyone access to our beach today.”
“Our” beach? As in PMRF’s beach?
No, Tom, that’s OUR beach, the public’s beach, one part of which just happens, unfortunately, to be accessible to us only through a military base that is sitting on land that actually belongs to the Hawaiian Nation.
It’s not in any way, shape or form the navy’s beach.
But how interesting, and disturbing, that PRMF believes, and acts, otherwise.