Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tales from Japan: Remembering March 11th, the Great Earthquake

  Today I took some time to reflect, to remember that day.  The day that changed everything.  Even though many would like to get back to a normal life I think the reality of the situation of Japan is quite different.

It was a special day and my daughter was just finishing her graduation ceremony from preschool.  I was wearing a suit on that day which is something I rarely do.  After the ceremony I had to quickly rush off to work in my suit of course.  I arrived in time for work and began to prepare for my classes and talk to the school master about the schedule and students when we both noticed the plant on the other side of the room start shaking.  He calmly said, "It looks like an earthquake." This wasn`t too alarming since we have had several relatively big earthquakes in the past five years I have been here.

However this one slowly began to escalate and the windows began to rattle faster and faster and then the building foundation began to sway.  After about 20 seconds we both went outside and at this point we could barely walk.  The ground was literally rippling up and down and the sound I will never forget.  It was the sound of everything on the earth moving and rattling and the wind suddenly began to blow and I saw people running and children began to scream and cry out loud.  There was a 30 story building in construction that had a crane on top of it and I watched in horror as the crane swayed like rubber back and forth.

A photo of the crane and building I described that was bending all over the place but did not fall during the earthquake on March 11th Yachiyo, Chiba Japan
At this point I shouted to my coworker that we need to leave now, but the sound of the quake seemed to block out my voice, so I grabbed his arm and began to run to an open area.  I took one look up to and saw the building behind me literally bowing to me.  After about 3 minutes of shaking the earthquake subsided.  Only to be met with an aftershock about 30 minutes later.  Knowing that this would happen I fled to a open area near the train station. My coworker went back into the building which had lost all power.  I urged him to come with me, but he elected to stay in the building.

The entire city had lost power and people were in shock and the cell phone grid was down.  There was no way to communicate and no power.  I was stuck for several hours with no way to contact my family.  As it became night I was able to catch a ride home from a coworker.  Of course the roads were backed up and it took over 3 hours to get home.  But this was a lot better in comparison to those who walked home from Tokyo for miles all through the night.

So I arrived home close to 10pm and I will never forget the silence in the street and the broken water mains and eerie scene of that night.  I had no real idea what had happened till later toward the middle of the night.

This video is from Chiba showing the ground actually moving and water spurting up from the ground. I don`t believe it is actually from 3/11 but from days afterward and aftershocks that occurred. Watching it was a reminder of that day and the chaos.

The truth is that even now we are still living with the consequences and grievance of that day.  There are many issues still facing Japan and those who are trying to recover or trying to find safety from radiation, which has now become the biggest unresolved issue.


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