What started as a normal trip to the salon for Sachem Alum Christie Wood, who lives in Japan, turned out to be a wild ride as an earthquake ripped through Asian nation.
“Everyone ran out of the shops along the street where I felt the ground moving and swaying back and forth,” said Wood, a Sachem graduate in 1987, who was then known as Christie Chapman. “It lasted a long time, too.”
When she married her high school sweetheart Vinny Wood, a Sachem alum from the Class of 1986 and an officer in the U.S. Navy stationed on board the U.S.S. George Washington, she never saw earthquakes or tsunamis in her future.
Wood is a stay at home mother of four, who volunteers in the military community and recently started her own business called Bali Living, which consists of her buying trips to Bali and selling the merchandise at the various bazaars on the Navy base as well as other bases around the area such as Yokota Air Base.
Two of her children were at a friends apartment tower on the ninth floor not far from the water.
“They felt it very strongly, with damage to her apartment,” she said via Facebook. “The children were very scared and crying. They also felt the explosion from the oil refinery across the bay in Tokyo.”
When there was a break they quickly ran down the fire escape where they were told to get to higher ground, Wood said.
“I could not get through to anyone's home or cell phones so that was very frustrating,” she said. “I didn't know where anyone was.”
When she finally got home, the streets along the water were all blocked off. The family lives in a townhouse about three blocks from the water on the base. Her oldest daughter was home and she said everyone was up on the hill.
“When I got there I was finally reunited with all my kids,” she said.
Her other daughter was home having fun on a trampoline at the time of the quake and saw their town house sway back and forth.
After the earthquake they were on alert for a tsunami. The first two floors of the towers along the water were evacuated. The tsunami never hit but they were still expecting aftershocks for another 48 hours, “and they could be pretty strong," she said.
Wood said her family is fortunate because the Navy base has power and is returning to normal. But it’s not the same outside the gates.
“The area north of us has been devastated,” she said. “We have many Japanese friends from modeling agencies and my kids are on a competitive Japanese gymnastics team. We do not know how they or their families have been affected yet.”
Her husband, Vinny, was on a ship located in Yokosuka when the earthquake hit.
“He said you could feel the ship being lowered when the water level dropped seven feet,” she said.
Sachem East alum Mike Alfino is also a sailor in the U.S. Navy and serves on the U.S.S. George Washington.
Yokosuka is a city within Kanagawa, with a population of about 420,000. Since the 1950’s it has been home to the U.S. Seventh Navy Fleet. The U.S.S. George Washington, America’s first nuclear powered ship to be home-ported in Japan is permanently based there.