Laupahoehoe Peninsula is located about 23 miles north of Hilo. Before the 1946 tsunami, it was an idyllic place to go to school. The school was located on the peninsula and the teacher cottages were oceanfront.
Tragedy would unfold on the morning of April 1, 1946 when tsunami waves crashed onto the peninsula, taking the lives of 21 students and teachers. Through a lucky quirk of fate, Joretta Ignacio was spared.
Joretta usually caught a ride to Laupahoehoe School with the cafeteria manager, who was her grand aunt. Typically at school by 7 a.m. each morning, Joretta would wait for her friend, Janet DeCaires, to arrive. Then they would walk down to their teacher's cottage and sit on the back steps. When their teacher arrived, they would help her with her books.
However, on the morning of April 1, Joretta's mother was upset that Joretta had been neglecting her piano practice. There was a whole hour before school that Joretta could use for practice.
So Joretta did not take the early ride with her grand aunt, but stayed home and practiced piano. After practicing, Joretta's father drove her to school.
Joretta's father was the police sergeant in charge of the Laupahoehoe Station. At the lookout to go down to the point, they found that cars were coming up and people were shouting, "Big waves!" From the lookout they saw a wall of water envelop the point, and they heard the ocean roar like a train. Joretta's father asked someone to take Joretta home, with instructions for Joretta's mother to go to the police station and have officers come down to the point and to call the Hilo station for help.
Tragically, Joretta's friend, Janet, who had been waiting on the back steps of the teacher's cottage, was swept inland by a wave. Janet's body was later recovered.
All of those lost at Laupahoehoe are commemorated on a quilt at the Pacific Tsunami Museum. It is a moving experience to look at the quilt, the art wall mural, and read the stories of fate in the exhibit.