About a month ago I was subbing at the Elementary School on the day of the annual Tsunami Evacuation Drill. I knew ahead of time that there would be a drill and so did the students. Notes had been sent home to parents and the automated telephone system had called everyone to remind them of the evacuation route, to be on time, and to wear good shoes.
As I walked onto the school grounds that morning I was behind a couple of young boys, perhaps 1st or 2nd grade. One of the boys wore a worried look on his face and was noticeably upset. I overhead him say that he was afraid of the drill and was scared that a real wave would come while they were evacuating.
The second boy was doing his best to comfort his friend, reminding him that it was practice, that all their friends and teachers would be with them, etc. It wasn't until he made mention of the evacuation route,"It will be OK, we are going to the temple." that the first boy began to calm down though. "Yes, I will be safe at the temple." he repeated quietly to himself as they turned the corner towards their classroom.
As a child I had always been taught that every Temple was a place of spiritual refuge, a safe place free from the temptations of the adversary where we could communicate with God and feel the sweet unhindered peace of the Holy Spirit. As an adult I had learned through personal experience that this was true by visiting regularly. I have received personal revelation and many answers to prayer within the walls of the temple and have never made a major life decision without making a special visit there. During times of great stress, trials and adversity I have found peace and comfort and a knowledge that my Heavenly Father knows me personally and loves me and is leading my path. I know it is the place to go to save my eternal soul.
Going to the Temple to potentially save my life was a new concept to me though. Never had I thought that it could save my life, my temporal, physical body as well as those of my friends and loved ones. I thought about this all morning as the little bodies of young students filtered into my classroom, as the tsunami sirens began to scream, as these precious beings anxiously took their place in line with the 500 other figures who filled the street in the 1/2 mile stretch up the hill. I had to work hard to keep tears at bay as I turned to check my line and all 26 bodies carefully following the path I had set, the course that would take us to safety, to the temple.
I too had to remind myself that this was a drill as I looked out across the typically empty Temple meadow now filled with students seeking peace from an imaginary swell. I had brought them there--26 of them at least. They had followed me. Cora was two lines away. She had followed her teacher and she was waving at me now proud that she had made it to safety.
On Saturday night halfway through the Great Pumpkin Carve and Donut Dunk, the donuts were all cooked and the Pumpkin judging had just been completed, the Tsunami sirens screamed through the still dark tropical night. Checking our text alerts we quickly learned we had under 3 hours and the waves were estimated at 3-6 feet, a height that could decimate our entire area. The party quickly broke up as families, our dear friends, loaded into their cars to evacuate to higher ground. We all knew we needed to hurry if we wanted to find room for ourselves at the evacuation zone.
I made sure my student renters were aware of where they should go. Heath ran down the street to make sure the old grandma he Home Teaches had a ride to safety. Dave threw 72 hour kit backpacks, sleeping bags, a water jug, some food, our pop up tent and our other evacuation supplies into the back of the truck. In 30 minutes time we were all loaded up and we left.
We abandoned everything: our pumpkins on the back driveway, our donuts on the kitchen counter, our movie "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" playing in the DVD player, our bikes, our photos, our musical instruments, our computers, our beds, our clothes, our pantry full of food, our sewing machines and power tools, our surfboards, our couches, our family heirloom furniture, our favorite stuffed animals, our games, our movies, our pet. We left without knowing if we'd ever see any of it again. We left and went to the temple.
We got there in time, there were still spots to park. We set up our pop up tent behind the truck on a small patch of the Temple meadow-which was now quickly filling up with cars and people. The kids and their friends quickly turned our spot into a mountain of blankets and pillows and bodies. Us parents all talked up the fun we were having while inside we all knew we were scared and worried. We encouraged the kids in their games and insisted they stay close. As the appointed hour approached--the estimated arrival of the wave--we began to get a little more nervous. "Is this really high enough?" we asked as we remembered the video's of Indonesia and Samoa and Japan.
I talked the kids into putting their things into the truck bed and going for a walk with our friends to the top of the hill persuading the kids that we might be able to see the wave from there. We went. It was dark. The hill was full of people all talking and visiting and enjoying one another's company. The excitement in the air was more like a concert about to begin than a disaster about to end life as we knew it.
We watched and waited. We thought we might have heard something but couldn't tell. Thought we could see the ocean horizon rise but weren't sure. We compared Facebook posts and News reports and texts and the occasional phone call that made it through the jammed cell lines. We grew tired and made our way back down to the meadow to escape the few stray rain drops that kept threatening a downpour. We snuggled up together under the pop ups, under the trucks, under the tarps, with our family and friends and co-workers and neighbors and fellow residents and fell asleep under a clear sky waiting for the last two waves and hoping for the "all clear". Sleeping peacefully in the Temple meadow.
We got that all clear. No damage was done. The waves were smaller than expected. We drove home and haphazardly unloaded leaving the bulk of the work for the morning and crawled into our beds thankful to have avoided disaster for now.
|Part of the Temple parking lot. They are starting to pack them into the driveway area here.|
|Another view of the parking lot with the temple in the background (the big glowing white building).|
|The Temple meadow filling up with cars and tents and people.|
|Our pop up with all the kids piling in underneath with their friends and their blankets and pillows.|