As Jee and I had not gone anywhere for vacation during 2004, we decided to spend Christmas in Hawaii. We planned to visit my cousins in Kauai and then spend a few days by ourselves on Maui. Although I would have preferred flying to Honolulu from LaGuardia or JFK, Jee was able to get a really good price on tickets from Newark. So on December 23rd we left early for the drive from Connecticut to New Jersey.
With no traffic on I-95, we made great time right until we got to the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx. On that day, traffic on the Bruckner was anything but express. I wasn't worried however as I had allowed several hours to get to the airport. Forty-five minutes later however, we had only moved a couple hundred yards. Frustration at the traffic gradually turned into panic as I stared to realize that we would never make our flight if we couldn't find a way past this highway parking lot. In desperation, I called our son David and asked his help. Through the wonders of technology—cell phones and internet mapping—he began directing us off the Bruckner and through a maze of streets completely across the Bronx. It wasn't until I could see the George Washington Bridge, however, that I started to feel some relief.
At long last we finally saw the exit signs for Newark airport. By the time we parked the car and took the shuttle to the American terminal we had less than half an hour before our flight. So despite the long line of passengers, we pushed to the front and quickly got the attention of an agent. We thought we were home free but then learned it was too late to check our bags! With all flights booked solid, our plans to spend Christmas in Hawaii again began to fade. The American agent was good, however, and found a cancellation for the last two tickets going to Honolulu the next morning. We snapped up the seats even though we weren't sure about getting a connection to Kauai. But everything worked out. When we arrived in Lihue on Christmas Eve, my cousins were there to give us a traditional welcome with fragrant leis, hugs and kisses. Tired but happy we looked forward to a relaxing week in tropical sunshine.
The next morning we found our presents under a Christmas tree brought in from California. Outside, instead of pines and snow drifts were palms and beach sand. How wonderful! With our young nieces playing with their toys and showing off their new clothes, we spent the morning catching up on what everyone had been doing over the years since we were last together.
And then that afternoon we started to hear about an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. The first TV news sounded serious but had few details. I called the head of our Emergency Response department to see whether we would be organizing any assistance. I was told they were still gathering information and would let me know. Little did I realize how this event on the other side of the world was about to change my life. That, however, is the story for another day.