Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Joey's Story

Hi all,

Right now I'm just really grateful to be alive and still in possession of a function home and car, something a lot of people don't have any more. Like I said on my Facebook status, yesterday was a day where I woke up to an earthquake and went to bed with my world rocked.

Since then I've been doing interviews and uploading pictures and video to so many news sources, from CNN International to Australia's Seven Network. As you know, it takes me a while to write out major blog entries, as I like to cram in as much detail as I can. So until then, I present to you the tale of Joey, my boss, which is a lot better than mine anyhow. After all those media requests, he finally just typed out a long email to send to all of them. Below is that, unedited.


Very dreamlike.
John Raynar called in sick this morning and I am so glad he did because I would have been on the road to work when it hit. I was sitting in for him on the morning radio show on 93KHJ when the earthquake hit about 7:50am. It lasted several minutes. we immediately sent out an EAS earthquake warning to tell everyone to stay away from possible landslide areas. we were in quick contact with the EOC and other emergency personnel to find out about a tsunami that might be coming. They advised that no tsunami was reported but to direct everyone to go to higher ground or to the second story of a building. We also asked school to initiate their tsunami plans to get kids up the mountains. We sent a tsunami warning EAS message 10 minutes later as we saw the first rising water. We stayed on the air as the water reached three or four feet in the parking lot. Our building Pago Plaza is located deep in the belly of Pago harbor close to seal level. The water stayed at that level for many minutes until it surged fantastically to around 15 feet. Tree, cars, buses, boats all rushed by in a river of mud just outside my window. I actually saw that my own car... a VW new Beetle was surprisingly boyant when floating on ut's roof. We continued broadcasting for people to move to high ground. for the next 5 to ten minutes until the batteries on our back up power system died. There was lots of panic by the office staff and it was struggle to keep everyone calm while i was still on the air. When we went off the air and I grabbed a video camera to try to capture some of the action. The first thing I caught was the second wave and me and Lupe praying. I'll post video later. All of the staff at the station went outside to the second floor balcony to see what was happening the air was filled with screams. The whole downstairs was completely washed out. The devastation was complete. Tables, windows, jewelry, trophies, dvds and bottles water lay strewn across the murky floor. The villagers immediately started looking for trapped survivors. I dedicated myself and my staff to helping those that were hurt and gathering food and water. I put out a call on the handheld EAS network walkit-talkie asking for a generator at my location then hooked up with two guys from the government to survey the damage in the area and look for gas leaks and live power lines. Debris was everywhere. Broken furniture mixed with old tires and trees. Children's clothing and road signs crushed under telephone poles. All under a thick layer of much that smelled like chemicals and deisel. Two more lesser waves came but they were equally scary. We screamed for people to run up the mountain but they just ran down the street away from the wave rather than make a sharp left and up the steep mountain just feet away. We walked down the road only to find that people that weren't trying to help had already begun looting the stores. Teenagers roamed the area with spray paint tagging buildings and overturned cars with meaningless scribble. We set up a security perimieter around our building and confirmed with plaza security that noone was trapped inside. Large fishing boats were washed up on land. The cars were washed into the harbor. I found my own car about 300 yards down the road upside down in the middle of a tennis court. I got a generator from a friend and got one of our FM's back on the air about 3 hours later. John and Adam our TV guy showed during this time and helped get things situated, We performed our broadcast on low power over the next 5 hours just spreading information. Keep the roads clear. Beware of falling debris that may have shifted during the earthquake. Dissuade the looting. Body counts kept piling up. News from other islands was very sporadic. The cell phone networks were only working intermittently. Details were they say. And talk about sketchy. By the time I finished my second or third patrol of the area, I was wigged out. I watched a slew of Taiwanese fisherman trying to get off a 100 ft. tuna boat that was leaning against the sea wall. School buses full of kids that were bring shipped back home were smiling and waving at all the excitement. Behind them were pick up trucks with two bodies in each of their beds covered up by lavalavas. Their feet were hanging out over the tailgate and I remember noticing that there was no mud on their feet. Everything is so nasty here. The other FM stations on the island were also on top of the situation so around 5:30pm, I signed off and sent everyone home with John and I caught a ride from some friends Rocco, Debra and Robert from the local Christian station KULA-LP who came to check things out and bring us water & food. As we drove through the area I saw more and more horrible things. The photos attached are from Rocco's camera and some are from my camera phone. The place has changed. Where i buy my morning snacks is a concrete slab and Marge Crispin, the lady who makes the most delicious meatpies, is no badly injured at the hospital. The new day spa that my girlfriend Moana works at is no tiliting precariously on it's foundation. The Korean store is gutted. The store where I get my lambflaps for lunch has a truck in it. The Sacred Heart aiga bus has a telephone pole skewering it like some sort of crazy shishkabob.Gas storage tanks at the fuel stations were carried off and leaking. Water mains are probably still gushing. The power generation plant near the canneries was badly hit but back up portable units were on the way in on big 18 wheelers. As we got further out of the belly of the harbor the damage was less and less noticeable. The radio station was ground zero for the worst natural disaster in recorded American Samoa history.
After grabbing some food, I took shower at my apartment and have been checking email and trying to spread as much info as possible on what happened. I've received calls and email from the USA, Canada, France, England, Australia and I think I'll be on TV on the network morning show in a few hours. I can't keep up with who I've talked to. The phone has rang every three minutes fot the past 3 hours..... I've been writing this email for two. It should have taken 15 minutes.
Video will be put here when finished uploading:
It's only half finished uploading currently.
Joey Cummings
General Manager
V103 (WVUV-FM)
Island Info Channel 13
Island Music Channel 10

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