November 09, 2004
The Big Island's own Ground Zero...The Crater... Pu'u O'o Vent of Kilauea volcano Hawaii Volcanoes National Park HVO photo
I have used the term "Ground Zero" for much of my life. For nearly all of my growing up years I lived in the shadow of the huge complex of buildings that were the hub of the creative force of the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Square miles of huge buildings that housed the NASA Offices as well as assembly plants and laboratories for North American Aviation, then Rockwell Intl now its been subdivided and houses the huge Kaiser Permanete facility as well as Los Angeles County offices and a number of large warehouse and distribution firms... In fact my last job in the International Shipping business was in a building that housed a R&D facility that my Dad had an office in during his final working days. The people there found it as touching as I did given the story and of course the subsequent ending of both of our careers in the same spot. It was our personal "Ground Zero"...
But it was also a literal one as well. After his retirement Dad and I would sometimes take a walk together on a summer afternoon to the store to get things for dinner, and a soda, and we would pass by the parking lots, by then in the early 1970's thinly populated with cars. I today dont remember what prompted the question, but we were given to mature discussion about the news of the day and I asked about what would happen if the Russians dropped a bomb on us... I remember him stopping and looking at me and pausing, then we walked to one of the open now unguarded gates and he took me inside a bit and said,".... look around you what do you see?" I told him that I saw what was left of his old employer, the empty buildings and the parking lots. He then said that "The Russians do not think that these buildings are empty... They do not trust us, and if the terrible day comes when they feel they must bomb us, this place is a target...a "Ground Zero" like Hiroshima... I know it is... You will feel nothing and it wont hurt and all will be well for you will be with God..." And we walked on. I didnt think any more about it.
10 years later, in the midst of President Reagan's showdown with the Russians, we learned that what my Father had said was correct. From Pt. Magu to Coronado Island was one long string of known targets and that evacuation was not possible. This made national news as the movie "the day after" was being shown on TV and everyone was getting all crazy about it... I wasnt crazy, for after all I had lived with the knowledge that I lived at "Ground Zero" all of my life. I wasnt phased a bit.
I think that has helped me over the years to deal with the natural disasters of life. Earthquakes mostly, You live on a series of major faults all of your life, so what is a bit of shaking, although I must admit that the earthquakes here on the Big Island have a peculiar flavor that is a touch scary... they just seem a touch more...violent the motion a bit more jolting than your basic California variety. Maybe its the closeness to the epicenter. a 3.2 is pretty darn big if you are sitting right on top of it...
Our agent for the house tells us of selling property sight unseen to people on the mainland and telling them "folks, that pahoehoe (smooth lava) that your home is built on is only 40 years old, a milisecond in the geologicl clock... yes that white plume is steam rising out of your pond, heated by a steam vent... Your power is geothermal...how is it generated, well the worlds most active volcano is just down the street...sign this waiver that you understand this and have it notarized..." and they still freak out once they move here and see it... By then all of the waivers have been signed and are months old. (not to mention the waiver you sign that you understand that your peaceful tropical paradise is infested with a tiny frog no bigger than a dime that SHREAKS a irritating repetative call at 100dbls every night as they look for mates. I like them, most people go crazy listening to this racket.I think they should have a waiver for the possible heart attack that you might have when food goes up double digits like it did again this past week!)Like me with the Bomb, you take the word of a knowledgeable person that all will be well and go forward, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt. Like a lot of things we thought about this place, the thought of Kilauea being only 10 miles away isnt nearly as upsetting as the tales we were told that "there are plenty of little jobs available, people work if they want to" what they failed to tell us is that we need to be related to cousin Kimo or forget about it.
This is another personal "Ground Zero" for me. I listened to Woody try to explain to yet another of his incredulous friends that he fell in love with Ohio and wants to move there and I can hear through the phone "are you nuts???" I understand. I went through the same thing when we moved here.." Gee we are sorry that you feel so bad but your Mom needs you and the Bible says that we must "honor" our parents..." there was a huge debate by my friends on the level of selfishness I was exhibiting. This is stacking up to be another one by Woody's long time pals thinking that hes spent too long in the sun. Thats because their Hawaii experience is limited to stints at the Four Seasons, and the hardest they have had to work here is on the back nine in a stiff wind at the Kings Course at Waikoloa.
But I hear the enthusiasim of Woody and that is really cool to me. He has been so down for so long and the crushingness of the "Ground Zero" experience of trying to make a living here and failing having to sell things and realizing that we were trapped here, that was devestating. He feels no pain at leaving and if we could sell it all tomorrow hed do it. I still feel like something is being ripped out of me, and I cant believe that I will soon be leaving here forever...