Three years ago today was the most terrifying day of my life. The shaking during the 9.0 earthquake in Japan was awful. I was in my second grade classroom with all of my students, their sweet faces peaking out at me from beneath their desks, not able to fully process what was happening. A few items fell off the wall. My arms bent at the elbows along with the movement of the tile floor. I had an inflatable globe hanging on the wall that bounced around like a ping pong ball. Once the earthquake stopped, there was complete silence (a rare thing to experience inside a school). The inflatable globe continued to sway, slowing down ever so slightly. The silence didn't last long though. We quickly evacuated the school and made our way outside to the soccer fields where we experienced several after-shocks.
I watched the old, tall trees around us sway but it was not the same swaying trees do in the wind. The clouds above us were swirling in a very strange way as well. Everything seemed out of balance. Brad (we taught at the same school) and I looked out at the students sitting on the field and realized that the ground was literally rolling beneath them. We didn't know how long this would last. We didn't know if our dog was OK inside our first floor apartment.
We didn't know that as we sat there a tsunami was forcing itself into the shore line.
We didn't know the water would move so far inland that it would bring the sea floor along with it, burying buildings and people.
We didn't know that as terrifying as the earthquake was for us, it didn't end there for many others.
We didn't know that 3 years later the struggle would not be over.
The fear we felt could not compare to what hundreds of thousands of others experienced that day. For many, the fear continues.
Brad traveled to Ishinomaki, one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, with a group of teachers and friends to help with clean-up a few weeks after the earthquake and tsunami. He met people who, despite having less than nothing to offer, showed hospitality to their group. In the midst of the loss and the fear and the continual after-shocks and the ocean sludge all around, they were able to show appreciation and composure in a way I believe is unique to the Japanese people.
After living in Japan for 4 years, I learned so much. I'm learning even more as I watch them rebuild and recover with grace after such devastation.
3.11 | Remembering Japan | 3 Years Later