On March 11, 2011 I was correcting my student’s final exams when I started to feel dizzy. I realized we were having an earthquake, the second one in a week. I didn’t think it would be very big so I updated my Facebook status mentioning another earthquake.
I live on the seventh floor in one of the towers on base, and it started to shake pretty violently. I thought it would stop soon, but it was about 2 minutes before it stopped but it felt like an eternity. And then our power went out.
I took pictures of the “damage” mostly because I thought it was funny at the time. Drawers flung open from the shaking and my flimsy excuse for a bookshelf fell over. Surely the power would come back on in a few hours.
It was almost two days before we got our power back, but luckily we could receive phone calls and got calls from worried family members asking how we were since they knew about the earthquake. I had no idea how much damage had been done until almost 2 days later when we got our power back. The images on television were unreal. An earthquake, a tsunami and a problem with the nuclear reactor all in one blow.
When things got back to normal in Misawa (besides the massive energy conservation) I had a deep yearning to help in some way. The American Red Cross started to go out on cleanup missions in Misawa and Hachinohe. I knew I had to go help.
We went to a port in Hachinohe (a city 45 minutes away from Misawa) and the damage there was pretty bad but not like what you would see in Sendai and other areas. I spent all day shoveling dirt out from in front of a refrigeration building and cleaning out another. I knew what I did was very small but it helped heal a little part of me that was so sad to see this happen to the country I’ve called home for the past nine months. The pictures below show a small glimpse of the cleanup.
The cleanups became a very popular thing to do and the base commander encouraged everyone to go out and help in some way. We started getting commercials on AFN asking “Have You Done It?” meaning, have you gone out and helped your neighbors restore Japan.
It will take Japan years to recover from these catastrophes and I hope people don’t forget that. There are many people left homeless, jobless and lost loved ones. I hope that people think of the individual lives that are affected. The Japanese have been incredibly resilient in this situation and I hope the rest of the world follows their example in how to act during a national crisis.
I am going to post a video of a song that is often played on Japanese radio. It is from a band called Inawashirokos made up of four Fukushima-born musicians from well known bands. The song is called I love and need you Fukushima.
To help in the relief efforts for Japan, please donate to the American Red Cross and ask that your donation goes to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief efforts. You can also donate online at www.redcross.org.
Edit: 9/11/2011 Misawa 6 months later