These are the faces of my friends. A week ago, North Korea flew a loaded nuclear missle over their heads. I should have been in Tokyo that day. But I was stranded in Houston - surrounded by flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey.
August 29, 6:02 a.m. - every cell phone in Northern Japan is warned to take cover.
Television is interrupted with straight forward warnings - take cover. The threat is serious.
Ten minutes later, it was over. The missile broke up and landed in the ocean. Thank God!
Sitting in Houston, worried sick about my family and friends, watching in horror as the water rose higher and higher... I saw the breaking news of the missle launch over Northern Japan. It was unbelievable, and confirmation that the world was officially off kilter.
My flight that day had been cancelled. Both Houston airports were under water and would stay that way for several more days. I managed to make arrangements to fly out of Dallas on Wednesday... all the while hoping the roads would be clear enough to drive.
By noon on Wednesday, there was one freeway with outbound lanes open in the whole city. My husband offered to drive me and we got on the freeway. It had been raining for 5 days and was still raining. And never mind that the only open road was in the wrong direction. We just needed to get far enough out of the flooding to find a route that would get us to Dallas. About 6 hours later we made it. On Thursday I got a flight from Dallas to Denver, and then on to Narita Airport.
Everywhere I went, I heard people talking about Houston. I felt like I should've been wearing a badge: "I'M FROM HOUSTON." It was all so strange. So many family and friends from out of town called and texted to check on us. And during the days and days of rain and flooding, I had been constantly checking on our huge extended family in Houston.
My niece and her husband are both meterologists for the National Weather Service. They lived at their office for nearly a week. At home, they have 3 kids and their house is in an area where there was a lot of flooding and thousands of evacuations were taking place. Amazingly, their house is ok.
Our home did not flood, but several of our relatives have flooded homes. Others have been under mandatory evacuation and were only able to return home yesterday.
My husband works in television news. He had taken an assignment with ABC News and they sent him and a crew to Port Aransas on Thursday (a full week earlier). The storm hit there Friday night. We kept in contact until the storm wiped out all communcations from the Rockport / Port Aransas area. I did not hear from him until 3 am Sunday morning. It was a tough day. In my brain, I knew he was fine. After all, I figured if anything had happened to the crew the other media crews working in the area would be all over it. But still... you worry.
My friends in Japan sent notes to check on me. The whole world was watching Houston.
I arrived safely in Tokyo and had one day to prepare for an event I had scheduled months earlier to celebrate the new book. As everyone arrived at the reception, their first words were to ask about our house and family. I held my hand to my thigh and indicated Houston had received almost 1 meter of water in some parts. They were awestruck.
But, speaking of awestruck. What about those missles? I mean, OMG!
"Ahhhhh.... yeah," they said. Shaking their heads. Trying quickly to move on to the next topic. When I finally sat down with one of my friends later that night, I tried to get more reaction. Were you scared? What did you do? Are you worried about what they will do next?
One thing I have learned over the years of interviewing people and doing research in Japan, is that the Japanese are not big on drama. They are very practical people. And they try to keep their individual emotions in check.
Those who would talk about it told me how the cell phone warning woke them. They are used to getting warnings like this for earthquakes. But this one was different and they were trying to take it all in. Most said they just stared at the screen on their phone or the tv, not sure what to do. Before they could really decide anything, it was over. For now anyway.
So now what? The powers that be are all trying to figure that out. Please God, let's not have another war. But, please God - stop that guy!
My friends may not express their fear with me, but I know their fear is real.
Houston will recover. But a nuclear missle? There are no words.