[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]
Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari
It was nearly 20 years ago when one of the most lethal terrorist attacks took place on September 11th, 2001. Multiple American airplanes with roughly a thousand passengers on board were hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists bound for the twin towers of the world trade center in NYC, the pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Many of the victims left behind final last words before their lives came to an end.
Some used cell phones to call or send text messages loved ones, while others frantically dialed 911 or reached out to the media to share with the public on what was happening during the attack. A man on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center called his wife and repeated the words “I love you” until his very last moment. A mother of three called her husband with her final words saying, “I don’t know what else to say besides I love you and the children. I want to see you face one more time. Good bye.” A 32-year-old man assured his father in his 70’s who happened to be watching the news live right before the plane crashed saying, “don’t worry Dad, it will be over pretty quickly.”
Like many of you, I have read these painful last words of the victims feeling sympathetic, yet disconnected to the victims of this tragedy. This was until Saturday morning of January 13th, 2018 when a missile alert was unexpectedly broadcasted to everyone in Hawaii.
It was a little after 8AM and I was sitting with the patients of a quiet Honolulu care home. During this time, I was watching a Japanese Foodie program broadcasted on a Japanese TV channel with two elderly patients. On the TV, the emergency missile alert showed up and sounded out two loud beeps with a message emphasizing that this was not a test. The same message also appeared on my phone screen as well. Again, the message repeated that this was not a test. Shortly after, a friend of mine called insisting that I hide in a small room with concrete walls.
Hawaii may be familiar with hurricanes, tsunamis, or even volcano eruptions, but the islands is not an unusual target for nuclear missile attacks. The alerts notified us that the missile will reach the island within 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there were no rooms with concrete walls at the care home. Besides, it would take at least 10-15 minutes to move a patient in a wheel chair to a safe place whether it was inside or outside. The hospice director Kayoko was calmly cooking an omelet for everyone as she said, “I will go with my patients”.
Roughly 30 minutes passed when a message appeared announcing that the alert was a mistake. I later learned that during this window of panic, vacationers in Waikiki took shelter in hotel basements, while parents were trying to reach their children who were outdoors. A news report even mentioned that a man had a heart attack during this time of panic, while desperately trying to reach his wife who was at a care home facility.
Fortunately, this turned out to be a false alarm allowing us to live to see another day and to remind ourselves that an emergency can happen at any time. The “last words” from the 9-11 tragedy gave us a deeper understanding of how short life can be. We tend to forget to express the most important words to our loved ones by getting caught up in everyday life. This false missile alert served as a reminder to express our appreciation to others more readily and frequently. We should not hesitate when it comes to expressing our words of gratitude since life is often too short.
Allow me introduce a short poem that a Japanese poet Susumu Kono wrote, titled “Again”:
We think we can meet again
We don’t pay attention to the power of our words and actions
We don’t know for sure
if we could meet again
It’s our arrogance
It’s our stupidity
By Susumu Kono