Heather Bresnahan was numb as she drove to work Monday listening to radio reports of the rising death toll from the tsunami that hit South Asia and East Africa.
"I was horrified," she said. "I couldn't even imagine it."
With the news weighing heavy on her mind, Bresnahan pulled into the parking lot at Brandon Crossroads Plaza. She looked up and there it was, staring her right in the face: Tsunami.
The word was in bold lettering splashed across the Tsunami sushi and hibachi restaurant.
It hadn't immediately occurred to Bresnahan that she worked in a place whose name had now become synonymous with images of death and destruction.
"Tsunami," the Japanese term for a huge destructive wave usually caused by an undersea earthquake, had been the subject of curious talk at the restaurant before. Customers would ask what it meant. Some even stumbled through the correct pronunciation, mispronouncing it "Tu-su-nai."
Bresnahan said she now wondered if customers would be put off by it.
Quite the opposite, said owner Eugenia Yu. "Customers have been coming in saying, "Oh, now I know what a tsunami is,' " Yu said. A few, she said, have flippantly told the cooks at the sushi bar, "Hey, I saw you guys in the news today."
Unbeknownst to customers, Robert Edge, a cook in the kitchen, has relatives in Bangkok and southern Thailand. He said he has not heard from anyone, not his grandparents or uncles, and acknowledged that he hasn't tried to call because he's not close to them. But he conceded that he's scared of receiving bad news.
No customers have complained about the name, Yu said.
The restaurant, which opened in July, was named tsunami because Yu's husband, Hunter, was bringing to Brandon a tastier, more stylized type of sushi, Yu said. He wanted to convey that culinary nuance and the word "tsunami" fit the bill.
"It's like a new wave that's coming," Yu said of the name. "My husband had been thinking about naming his first restaurant tsunami for years."
Now the couple is starting a collection. Beginning Tuesday, customers can make monetary contributions, which the Red Cross will then collect and deliver to the victims.
"At least people here will now know what a tsunami is and they can help," she said.