Tsunami interrupts Hawaii vacation

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unaware of the recent earthquake in Japan, Ginny Shirleyanswered a phone call around 2 a.m. Friday.

On the other end of the line was her longtime friend Jean Elliott,calling from the top of a mountain in Maui, Hawaii. Elliott hadbeen relocated there to avoid an incoming tsunami that emanatedfrom the quake-struck island nation.

Elliott’s early morning call informed Shirley about the earthquakeand her being on the side of the Hawaiian island closest to Japan.Elliott, a retired teacher, also talked of her evacuation by carand how she was told to take food, but forgot her fruit.

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“Not what you expect or plan for,” said Shirley in discussingElliott’s predicament. “It’ll be quite a story to tell (her)grandchildren.”

Shirley said Elliott had planned her vacation to Hawaii longago.

Elliott and a few of her high school friends headed toward Hawaii’ssecond-largest island around Wednesday for vacation. Shirleymentioned Elliott is scheduled to return Saturday.

“It certainly was (a surprise), when you think someone over thereis having a really nice, fun time,” said Shirley of the phonecall.

Shirley said Elliott experienced several hang-ups in planning thetrip, as if she was not meant to go.

“She had a little premonition that it wasn’t going to all bepeaches and cream,” said Shirley. “Just things that would kind ofgive you an eerie feeling.”

Shirley and Elliott became friends after each found a common boundin not being from Mississippi. Shirley moved to Brookhaven fromTexas and Elliott relocated to the area from Missouri. The two alsoattended the same church and have children the same ages.

“She’s more like family than a friend,” said Shirley.

Learning of her friend’s escape to high ground is not Shirley’sonly indirect brush with the recent devastation.

Dean Shirley, Ginny Shirley’s son, has a friend and former roommatecurrently living 70 miles from a nuclear reactor in Japan.

Dean Shirley’s friend, Kazuhiro Suzuki, roomed with him while atthe University of Southern Mississippi and the two became goodfriends. Suzuki would visit the Shirleys and even had Thanksgivingdinner with them.

“They have been friends for years,” said Shirley. “Veryinteresting, very nice young man.”

Ginny Shirley said her son received news that Suzuki was OK throughan e-mail on Sunday, but has not been evacuated.

“We’re very pleased he was not in that area,” said GinnyShirley.