Family comes to Patrick after Japanese Disasters
By 2nd Lt. Cait Suttie, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 01, 2011
PATRICK AFB. Fla. -- Rebecca Kelley is glad to be back in Florida; but it was a long road back from Misawa Air Base, Japan in post-earthquake confusion.
"I was sitting in my living room when the quake hit," said Kelley. "I grabbed two of my three children and ducked down by some furniture."
The earthquake lasted about 20 minutes. Kelley and her husband, Airman First Class Shawn Kelley, an Emergency Management Specialist, were dumbfounded.
"We just sat there looking at each other like what do we do?" said Kelley.
They lost power almost immediately and didn't even know what had happened nation-wide until Monday on the news.
The family decided to try and get to Shawn's office, but the aftershocks kept coming. That was the hardest part for Kelley.
"I would wake up in the middle of the night with the bed shaking and wonder if this would pass or if I should get the kids. Most were small, but I would panic," said Kelley.
The voluntary evacuation gave her options. She could choose to go back to the states for a little while.
"I felt like I could go somewhere and not worry about keeping my kids safe," said Kelley.
But the trip back would not be without its own problems.
Kelley is a mother of three boys, Parker, 7, Brayden, 1.5, and Dylan, 4 months. The process of getting a flight was a long one, with several stages of paperwork and only 2 days notice to pack up and get on a plane.
"I waited in the terminal for 6 hours, alone, with 3 young boys," said Kelley.
The Kelleys flew from Misawa to Seattle and by the end they were all exhausted.
"When we got to Seattle the military and the USO went above and beyond to help us," said Kelley.
The United Service Organization (USO) offered free childcare so that parents traveling without their spouses could get the next stage of their journey ready to go. Free diapers, wipes, formula and even an escort through security were provided to help with the kids and all their stuff.
"Every time I turned around someone was there offering help," said Kelley. "I couldn't have done it without their help."
The Air Force provided transportation all the way back to the family's hometown of Indian Harbor Beach. The family is now staying with Kelley's mother.
"The younger boys got sick on the way over so we have been dealing with that," said Kelley.
But the community at Patrick Air Force Base was here to help.
"I went to the Airman and Family Readiness Center," said Kelley, "and Tech. Sgt. Monica Gonzales has been really, really great."
Gonzales made sure the family had everything they needed, from childcare to just good, old-fashioned support.
"Shawn is still in Japan and has been working 18 to 24 hour shifts," said Kelley, "but they have help now."
The original length of the trip was 'not to exceed 30 days' but it can be longer as the Air Force reassess the situation.
No matter how long their stay the Kelley family is safe.
"Shawn says they are still having aftershocks but he is safe," said Kelley. "It is just really quiet now that the little ones aren't running around."