Douglass native evacuates Japan with family

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

DOUGLASS, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches assistant police chief Mike Kelly and his wife, Marie, can't wait to see their daughter and grandchildren. The homecoming is far different than the usual anticipation by grandparents. Amanda Kelly Walsh and her three small children are being evacuated from Japan. Amanda's husband, Justin, a navy security officer, is staying behind to assist in recovery efforts.

Marie stays close to her laptop. "We're out of here!," she reads. For over a week she's been waiting for this one e-mail from Amanda. "They have us set to go out on a flight at 0400 to Seattle," read Marie, with relief in her voice.

Amanda is voluntarily leaving Japan out of concern for her two daughters, ages three and two and her three month old baby boy. It's a decision she made with her husband.

"They're about 15 miles inland," said Mike Kelly. The law enforcement officer is used to handling disasters, but he's taking this one very personally.

The first concern for their daughter's family came shortly after the earthquake. "They told us it shook for quite a while and it scared them and they lost power and lost phone, but everybody was ok," said Kelly.

Then it was the tsunami. "They were far enough in it wasn't any direct effect, but pretty soon started having problems with just their basic necessities that no one was prepared for," explained Kelly.

Food, formula, gasoline are scarce. "Justin was called for duty shortly after the quake, but he couldn't immediately make it in because of all the road damage," said Kelly.

Now radiation is the fear. "The military is issuing potassium iodine pills today at noon on their base, so that's a fear, you know, to get the kids, the babies away because it's such more a risk for them," said Marie nervously.

Following each disaster, Amanda sent encouraging e-mails and Facebook postings. She's known for her patience, something needed while waiting for her passage out.

"She had to pack everyone up several times expecting to load onto a plane. Each time she was told to return back to their off base home," explained Marie. "We understand the entire Pacific fleet is helping with the evacuation of thousands of women and children. It's quite an undertaking," said Marie. "The plane that took off yesterday had 330 people on it. 190 of those were infants, so that's a very loud plane trip," laughed Marie.

Amanda and the children should be in Seattle tomorrow morning, Texas time. Then she will wait for a flight into Houston.

The Kelly's were expecting a spring visit from her daughter. She's graduating from SFA's nursing program in May. Never could they predict the circumstances that led to her early arrival.

This week the Kelly's are spending their time baby proofing their home for their granddaughters and newest grandson. "So we'll get to meet him for the first time," said Marie.

We'll continue to follow Amanda's return to East Texas. We hope to talk with her as soon as she's rested enough to visit.

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