2011 Sendai Earthquake – 東北地方太平洋沖地震

Despite numerous disasters that happened in my lifetime, few were able to cause me to be concerned enough to be constantly checking for updates.  One was Tropical Storm Alison, which struck my hometown while I was overseas. Another was Hurricane Katrina, which caused devastation to neighboring state of Louisiana (and consequently an influx of refugees to my state and city).  The most recent is the Sendai Earthquake (東北地方太平洋沖地震) off the northeastern coast of Japan estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey at 9.0 on the Richter Scale.

The Great Hanshin Quake (阪神淡路大震災) in 17 January 1995 – though devastating and within my lifetime – did not have quite the effect as this one, possibly because I did not actually know anyone in Japan personally.  This time, a friend of mine who studied here in the States with me in high school (and later attended Waseda University 早稲田大学) that I still keep sporadic contact with is living there.

The day of the quake, I could not fall asleep and thus decided to check Twitter when I caught wind of the quake as well as the ensuing tsunami.  At around 03:00 CST, I found a live feed from the NHK which showed a massive wave spreading over the land, leaving devastation in its wake.  Dread came upon me, and I tried to contact my friend.  Of course, he wouldn’t respond until much later, but the concern kept me glued to the constant surge of updates on the event.  The unending devastation – the earthquake, the aftershocks, the tsunami, the nuclear threat, etc. – brought out thoughts and feelings I still find difficult to put into words.  As one who has travelled and seen the beauty of the countryside and the country itself twice, I was appalled to see the results of the tsunami taking place.

Examples of the destruction that ensued from the quake can be viewed here.

Many at this point were unaccounted for or possibly dead.  Then someone collected a bunch of posts from Facebook and posted it on Twitter here.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as furious at people as the period of time that followed immediately after reading that post.  I don’t think people remember Hiroshima or Nagasaki which ended the Pacific Theatre against Japan.  After reconstruction, Japan is one of our biggest allies in the East Asian region.  There is nothing to “get them back” for.  I’m not saying that the deaths of our people here in the States should be forgotten, but neither should those of our former enemy and current ally.  Furthering bloodshed or hatred only continues that circle.  There was also the incident with the troll who posted a video thanking God for the tragedy that struck.  I’m normally alright with trolling, but in this instance it was tasteless. No international disaster should be made into such a horrid “joke”.  Also, the way it was portrayed as well as how far it travelled only served to worsen the international image of us Americans and Christians.  It is no wonder that the international community or those who are not Christians tend to view us as dislikable.

By then, I began to lose faith in humanity once again (seems like it fades away pretty easily for me, huh?).  But then, a friend of mine linked me to a collection of Twitter posts from that someone translated.  Here are some of my favourites:

* 段ボールに感動
Card board boxes
Thank you! It was cold and I was getting very weary waiting forever for the train to come. Some homeless people saw me, gave me some of their own cardboard boxes and saying “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these!” I have always walked by homeless people pretending I didn’t see them, and yet here they were offering me warmth. Such warm people.

* パン屋
The bakery lady
There was a small bread shop on the street I take to go to school. It has long been out of business. But last night, I saw the old lady of the shop giving people her handmade bread for free. It was a heart-warming sight. She, like everyone else, was doing what she could to help people in a time of need. Tokyo isn’t that bad afterall!

* 日本ってすごい
Japan is a wonderful nation!
Both the government and the people, everyone is helping one another today. There are truck drivers helping evacuees move. I even heard that the “yakuza” (gangsters, organized crime groups) are helping to direct traffic in the Tohoku region! There have been many recent developments that have made me lose my sense of pride in my country, but not anymore. Japan is an amazing place! I’m just simply touched. Go Japan!

* 声をかけること
昨日、裏の家の高1になるお兄ちゃんに感動した。 家に1人で居たらしく、地震後すぐ自転車で飛び出し近所をひと回り。 【大丈夫ですか―――!?】と道路に逃げてきた人達にひたすら声掛けてた。あの時間には老人や母子しか居なかったから、声掛けてくれただけでもホッとしたよ。 ありがとう。
A strong voice
Yesterday, I was impressed and touched by the actions of my neighbor’s 13-year-old-boy. He was home alone when the earthquake hit. But instead of hiding, as soon as the earthquake quieted down, he jumped on his bicycle and road around the block repeatedly shouting at the top of his voice, “Is everyone alright? Is everyone okay?” At the time, there were only women and children and the elderly in the homes. I cannot describe how comforting it was just to hear a strong voice asking if I was okay. Thank you!

* いつでも買える
今日、募金箱に金髪にピアスの若い兄ちゃんが万札数枚入れていた。そしてその友人に「ゲームなんていつでも買えるからな」と言っていたのが聞こえて私含め周りの人達も募金していた。人は見た目じゃないことを実感した。そんなお昼でした。 この話感動しました。
Goth youth
A goth youth with white hair and body piercings walked into my store and shoved several hundred dollars (several tens of thousands of yen) into the disaster relief fund donation box. As he walked out, I and people around me heard him saying to his buddies, “I mean, we can buy those games anytime!” At that, we all opened our wallets and put our money into the donation box. Really, you cannot judge people by their appearances.

More of these stories can be seen here.

As a student of a health-care profession, I wish to help in any way possible.  Of course, it isn’t quite possible for me to travel over there to help for multiple reasons.  Currently, I’m spreading whatever news I can find on the topic.  Also, within the Cultural Diversity Committee, I (along with several classmates) am pushing for a fundraiser and/or item collection to aid in the relief effort.

For those of you that may not be around for that, there are different ways that you can pitch in yourself:

Microsoft organized some support and also included several links to different places you can support or help.  These groups include NetHope, The American Red Cross, World Vision, Save the Children, International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps, and AidMatrix.  Another organization I found is Second Harvest.

Please help in whatever way you can. No one deserves to live through disasters such as these.

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