Hawaiian Pagan Recounts Tsunami Experience – Anger at Media Coverage

While the focus of attention has been on Japan, other regions of the Pacific basin were also affected by the same tsunami that swamped the island nation on Friday.  One of those places is Hawaii.  Lamyka, a Pagan living on the North Shore of O’ahu and who has previously lived in Japan, spoke with PNC-Minnesota about her experience and why she is angry at the media coverage Hawaii has received.

House in Kealakekua is submerged by Friday's tsunami, photo by Peter Alu

Lamyka says she heard about the earthquake on Facebook first and knew right away it was severe, “When you live in Japan earthquakes are normal but I could tell from the simultaneous and scared posts of friends that this earthquake was different.” Lamyka told her parents about the quake and then the family did what many families do when learning of a natural disaster – they crowded around the tv.  Because Lamyka had lived in Japan for eight years, she was able to follow the coverage of the quake on Japanese news station NHK.  Next, Lamyka checked to see if the quake would affect Hawaii.

“We were already at ‘Tsunami Watch’ in a matter of minutes,” says Lamyka.  “That was when we started packing up the car and calling family & friends.  Another 20-30 minutes passed when we were upgraded to ‘Tsunami Warning’.” The family knew it was time to leave the area.

Lamyka credits her family’s quick action to the news of the impending tsunami to public emergency preparedness information, “In Hawai’i we’re instructed from a young age, what to do when there’s a Tsunami and so my family lead some of our neighbors to Pupukea.” The trip, and the wait, made for a long night, “Most of us were running on adrenaline because we knew that this earthquake in Japan was not a normal one at all.  I tried not to cry in front of my family so as not to worry them but I had lived so long in Japan it was just heart breaking because I knew there was nothing anyone on the ground could do–much of Japan along the coast is flat and I couldn’t help but cry out because the people had nowhere to run to.”

At Pupukea her family listened to the local radio stations while Lamyka watched tv.   They were angered by reports of tourists sitting on a sea wall in Waikiki and frustrated by the lack of  updates from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Then, they heard area dogs begin to howl and they knew the tsunami had arrived.

Lamyka in Hawaii

Lamyka found strength and comfort in her faith, saying, “I put on my two necklaces that are really the only overt symbols of faith to my Gods and prayed before we left, never taking them off until we were home again.  All I could do all night was hold them and kiss them, whispering prayers for the safety of my home and our cats which we couldn’t take with us.”

Lamyka’s prayers were answered.  O’ahu was mostly untouched, but tsunami surges hit Kaua’i, Maui, and The Big Island.   It had been a long night, but Lamyka knew how fortunate O’ahu was, “Most of us didn’t sleep at all until noon the next day.  Exhaustion and gratitude was all I or anyone else could feel.  We all knew we were lucky.”

After Lamyka returned home, her exhaustion turned into anger.  “CNN’s coverage of Japan was not only spotty and inaccurate in some places, but American news stations mostly talked about California–which was barely touched.  CNN chose to focus on a few boats that were sunk and how one idiot died because he was trying to take pictures–not to mention all the other idiots who grabbed their surf boards to go ‘ride’ the Tsunami.  Here we are in Hawai’i, in actual danger, 3 islands majorly hit with the remaining islands also littered with damage with next to no mention.  Then on Diane Sawyer’s program Hawai’i gets mentioned in her last sentence before commercial break, like some foot note–and what was said?  The Federal government took 1/2 of the funding for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center away, even though this is our second Tsunami this year, which probably explains why our sirens didn’t go off nor was the information as accurate as possible.  What’s an even bigger slap in the face is California is STILL getting more coverage than Hawaii!  Forget Kona businesses ruined by surges, forget homes in Maui bombarded by rocks from the ocean, forget an entire town in Napo’opo’o was destroyed by the Tsunami.  Now our Governor declared a state of emergency so we can get federal funding to help with the damage caused.”

Lamyka feels that Hawaii has been ignored in favor of California by the media because Hawaii is seen as not American enough, “Hawai’i is seen as ‘foreign’ by many Americans, as evident by people’s reactions to the President coming here for holidays.  We’re never included in national dialogue, probably because it’s incredibly obvious that we shouldn’t be part of the USA to begin with.  Hawaiians have been protesting since being illegally usurped, fighting for our rights since statehood, and continue to fight for sovereignty rights denied to us.  We’ve had protests here numbering from 50,000-60,000 but never once made national news like in Wisconsin.”

She says this feeling towards Hawaii and Hawaiians colors more than just the recent tsunami coverage, “Hawaiians and Hawai’i locals are told we should be grateful for the scraps of funding and fluff coverage we get.  Not even the video footage I’ve provided you was seen on CNN, ABC, or MSNBC.  That is how little we matter and how much of a joke we are–better to cover some jackass in California then show a Hawaiian leukemia patient’s home and town destroyed or a house floating in the bay.”

She is pleased with how the Pagan community is responding to the disaster, “I’m warmed to see Pagans taking a direct roll in trying to raise funds to help Japan.  I hope that once people watch NHK in English they can get the real information instead of the fear mongering I saw through CNN and other American news agencies.  I ask Pagans to also examine where you get your news and information–is it balanced or biased?”

Editor’s notes: Lamyka is the founder and Co-Chair of the Proud Pagan Podcasters. You can listen to her on Lamyka’s Wiccan Podcast and on the Pagan Centered Podcast.

Peter Dybing, National First Officer, Covenant of the Goddess, has created a Pagan community donation collection page.  If you want your donation to Doctors Without Borders to be recognized as coming from the Pagan community, be sure to use the special FirstGiving page set up by Peter Dybing.

A correction was made to an earlier version of the story.  It originally said that Lamyka lived in Japan for four years.  That was corrected to eight years.

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5 thoughts on “Hawaiian Pagan Recounts Tsunami Experience – Anger at Media Coverage

  1. Peter Dybing says:

    Lamyka, is always insightful and I am glad you chose to interview her. Thank you for this post.

  2. J Josefson says:

    It figures. the east coast “establishment” would like nothing better than anything west of california. either needs nothing or even exists unless it is some other country.

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