Families feel aftershocks

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

The call from Erin Byrd to her dad, Tommie, started like this – “Dad, what’s a tsunami?”

Across the way, Frankie Wiggins got up at 4:30 like he does every morning, turned on the television and flipped it over to the Weather Channel. What he saw sickened him in the pit of his stomach – an earthquake off the coast of Japan had caused a ferocious tsunami that slammed into the coast, killing hundreds as it carried away everything in its path.


Its next target – Honolulu, Hawaii, and the exact location where the two men’s daughters, Katy Wiggins and Erin Byrd – Andalusia residents, Pleasant Home graduates and members of the Faulkner University softball team – had traveled for an upcoming softball tournament.

It was the sirens that woke the girls, Tommie Byrd said.

“It was about 2 a.m. when she called and said, ‘Dad, what’s a tsunami? At home, we have hurricanes,’” Byrd said. Erin is the team’s catcher and a sophomore at Faulkner. “She said the sirens were going like crazy, and they were doing mandatory evacuations, but they were safe.

“From what I understood, their hotel was on the other side of the island, plus they were on the 25th floor,” he said. “They said they were assured they were safe.

“On the flip side, Erin’s mom, sister, aunt and grandmother left (Friday) at 8 a.m. out of Birmingham, headed to Hawaii for the game,” he said. “They may have a layover in Los Angeles until they open the airports in Hawaii.”

Wiggins said he immediately picked up the phone to call his daughter, Katy, who is a senior at Faulkner and the team’s pitcher.

“She said they couldn’t really see anything because it was dark,” Wiggins said. “She said that they had made the people on the bottom two or three floors evacuate and move up because they didn’t know how bad it was going to be.”

Wiggins said the girls had mixed emotions about the events unfolding before them.

“Some were scared; some weren’t,” he said. “I know they went back to bed before daylight. I tell you, though, I was scared in the beginning, because I knew that I couldn’t get over. I just had to stay here and pray.”

Luckily, little damage was reported in Hawaii; however the same cannot be said for Japan.

The magnitude-8.9 offshore quake triggered a 23-foot tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them more than magnitude 6.0. In the early hours of Saturday, another earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country.


The death toll there is expected to exceed 1,000.

In the U.S., a tsunami swept at least five people watching the waves out to sea – four were rescued from the water in Oregon, but a man taking pictures in Northern California was still missing Friday afternoon.