By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
When Mary Likua got a call from her 9-year-old granddaughter to say she was safe from Hurricane Katrina and in a shelter with her brother and father, Likua breathed a partial sigh of relief.
"I just didn't want to think," the Kane'ohe resident said. "I was happy that my grandchildren were OK. There was one big lump out of my stomach, but there was another one. I just wanted to know that my daughter was alive."
Her daughter, Roxanne Sparbo, was raised on O'ahu, and Likua's grandchildren were born here. They left for Pass Christian, Miss., about six years ago when Roxanne's husband received military orders.
When the hurricane churned through, it destroyed the Sparbos' home and separated the family. The call Likua received from her granddaughter Naomi came a week after she had last heard from the family.
Compounding the anxiety was that Roxanne is recovering from surgery. She had gone to the store for medicine right before the hurricane hit and did not return before they had to evacuate.
When Likua's granddaughter finally called, she told her grandma she had seen a baby floating in the flood waters.
"I told her don't think about it," Likua said. "Just pray. Just pray that we find your mommy."
Likua said a friend helped her make contact with the Red Cross to try find her daughter through the Family Links Registry, which is designed to help reunite families. On Thursday, it worked. Likua finally received word her daughter had made it to a shelter, and the Red Cross even helped her call home.
"It's better than being on the 'Price is Right' and winning a car," Likua said.
Likua is waiting for Roxanne to call again to fill in more details, but what Roxanne has already shared has helped her mom understand why it took so long to get in touch.
Roxanne Sparbo, who is legally deaf, was trying to drive home during the storm, but eventually had to stop the car and began walking through the water.
Along the way, she stopped to help an elderly couple and screamed for help, to no avail. "They took her because the water was coming in, and she stayed there with them," Likua said.
The three ended up trapped on the couple's second-floor deck for days. The women survived on anything they could find, such as unpopped popcorn kernels and boiled rainwater.
The man, however, passed away and the women were forced to push him into the water.
While they were trapped, Roxanne, though hard of hearing, could hear children screaming and could see people going by, but she couldn't get anyone to hear her until Thursday, Likua said.
When she got to the shelter, the Red Cross helped her reunite with her husband and children, as well as call her mother and sister.
Likua is hoping for a family reunion now, either in Hawai'i or Utah, where her other daughter lives. "I'm hoping she's going to come to Hawai'i," she said.
Reach Treena Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.