Saturday, April 2, 2011

How many sailors does it take to perform an evacuation?

In the days following the earthquake, we were told by our commands to stay home, pack a bag and prepare for an evacuation due to the radiation in the air and water. We were made to fear for our lives and the media in The States was making things out to be worse than they were and still are. I posted an Earthquake Map in my previous post so if you need, please pause and go watch it again, maybe even three or four times to really understand what occurred. I am in no way placing blame or making accusations against anyone or any command. I have always believed and practiced that if we want to complain about a problem, we need to be part of the solution as well.

It all began on Thursday, March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. Maybe leprechauns were involved in the planning and execution of the information, honestly, I just don't know! Our command instructed the sailors to have their families pack a bag and prepare to evacuate. The big command told us to wait at home and a bus would come and pick us up and take us to the planes. We were told so many different scenarios that contradicted and canceled out previous instructions that panic set in with some families. Add the panic and lack of correct communication together and what do you get? You get a huge rumor mill and people confirming their intelligence by posting just about anything possible. In my heart, I knew that God would take care of us and guide our leaders. After sorting through the information, the one common denominator was that the families should pack a bag(s) and wait at home for a bus to come around and pick up everyone and their pets. Honestly, I was shocked at such an aggressive plan but pleased to know that our leaders did care about the safety of the families. Then April Fools Day came early to Japan and reality hit; there was no plan, no bus and no planes.

Well, we sat at home on Friday, Saturday and Sunday waiting for further instructions. The whole time my husband was being recalled every five minutes, or so it seemed. So, on Monday evening, I decided to take matters into my own hands and confront those left behind to 'help' the families. I packed up our luggage, the dogs and a few essentials to help us through a few days on our own. The command was making minute by minute postings with directions on what we should do. So, I went and stood in line for seven hours only to be told to be patient and wait a bit longer. At 3am, we were told to write our name down on a list and go home and get some rest. We were to return at 9am, six hours later, to get processed onto Flight 3. Ok, I know how to write down my name and two contact numbers so we did what we were told. I think I slept about three hours in my own bed and reported back with my patient and loving child along with our luggage and dogs. Stupid me, I left them loose in the van and prayed for the best. (Remember this, there is a story later!) We arrived at 9am to just a few people there and I was shocked to think I might be on time for something. Fast forward six more hours of sitting and waiting patiently, to be told we could leave for one hour to run last minute errands and come back for the processing. Ok, I decided to grab a few last minute things to help entertain Michael and head back. Plus I just knew my good little puppies needed to run and walk.

So, we get to the van and the dogs were screaming! Great, just something else to add to my headache! No worries, I will feed them a few cheeseburgers and they will be happy campers. As Michael is climbing across the driver's seat, he asks me, "Mommy, what is that smell?" and then proceeds to throw up on himself and all over the van. Yes, the dogs were so wound up, they had diarrhea all over the van and now Michael added his contribution. I just took a deep breath through my mouth because it was a horrid odor and I was gagging myself and cleaned up Michael and as much of the poop as I could with what limited supplies I had. I'm a good military wife, I can do it all! So, we drove over to the exchange to buy new clothes for Michael and some clean up supplies for the mess. I walked the dogs in the rain for about 20 minutes while Michael is yelling at me from the van about the horrible smell. I swear, I thought I heard God laughing at me and I made Him and myself a promise that I would come out of this a better person. I would learn the lesson He was teaching me.

Despite being a single parent yet again, I pulled it all together and returned to the mass exodus to be processed for my flight. Despite my frustration added to my mental and physical exhaustion, I stayed positive up until the minute I returned to the gym. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a line of people and instructions that they are the last 20 to board for Flight 3. Oh really??? I was told at 9am this morning that we hadn't begun boarding for Flight 3. (More deep breaths and self-talking about staying positive and being a good role model for my son.) Upon further questioning, I was told by the same ones who had been giving me such 'great' information all last night and this morning that I needed to speak to the man in charge. No worries, I am great at public speaking and communication. Little did I know what no one was on the same page and the wives were being viewed as hysterical females. For the sake of those involved, I will not use names or ranks. I made my point and I ensured that everyone understood the information I had and even pointed at two sailors in particular who were giving wrong information and trying to make me the bad guy for trying to follow their directions. After a few minutes of reality hitting me hard in the stomach, I did have a female moment and began crying to a few friends. The civilian in charge of the whole operation showed up and came to me. He will forever be my knight in shining armor and actually followed through with the instructions he gave from 13 hours earlier. He personally walked me up to the line and processed our family for Flight 3. The lesson of this story is that when those in charge leave, the ones left behind do what they want to do and care less about the consequences for their actions. As soon as my Knight left to grab a few hours of sleep, an order came out to board everyone that didn't leave and go from there. This all began one hour after I left. Not one phone call and the notebook went missing!

As I promised, I will be addressing the process and plan to help make this a better and easier process should this ever happen again. This is what I do and I am good at it. (Toot, toot!)

Next post: Yokota restores my faith in humanity

1 comment:

  1. My friend said it best, "It seems that they are making the rules up as they go along. Like little kids playing a game. Changing the rules each time they don't like the outcome they see."