Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Missing the People I Never Met

We had an assembly yesterday morning regarding the earthquake.  The important figures were wearing suits, we had a minute of silence, and the principal asked the school to think about what they'd like to do for the earthquake/tsunami victims.  A couple of teachers cried.  A few hours later there was another explosion at the nuclear plant and all but the most necessary workers were evacuated.  The prime minister gave a press conference asking people to remain calm, but simultaneously warning that the situation is dangerous.  I read on the internet that the radiation levels surrounding the reactors were likely high enough that the 50 workers who remained behind to operate the saltwater cooling system are taking years off their lives for each day (or hour) they keep working.  I see pictures of people being reunited with loved ones and lost pets, and also people being reunited with dead bodies.  And then last night, just before going to bed, I heard a report of another 6.0 earthquake that struck Kanagawa (SW of Tokyo), about the 30th 6.0+ earthquake to hit in the last four days.

I was just up there a couple weeks ago for the marathon and everything was clicking along like it should in a cosmopolitan metropolis.  But now the train systems are crippled, the population is hoarding food and watching the rain and wind forecasts carefully, and earthquake reports imply that the ground is spending more time shaking than not.

And yet here I am preparing for my third/fourth grade English class.  We will play karuta with A-Z alphabet cards, introduce some new verbs, and continue learning "I like….".  I will get my food order from Naha tomorrow, our water supply is sound, and for all intents and purposes, life is normal.  I only know a couple people with connections to Sendai and the surrounding prefectures, but no stories of loss.  I don't get any news that you non-Japan-living readers don't get and I don't see any affected people, nor am I really in the path of the 'winds of radiation' should it come to that.  But I live in Japan.  And I am surrounded by Japanese people all day, every day.  And they are just like you have read in the news: generous, tranquil, trusting, and 'in it together.'  And that is why this unfolding story is so painful: knowing that those who lost their lives and livelihoods in the disaster are the same people who sit next to me today.  The people in Sendai would smile at me on the street and tell me my Japanese is great.   They'd be proud when I initiate a short English conversation with their kids.  They would have wasted valuable time to stop by my apartment and warn me of the incoming tsunami.

And that is my connection.  It's not a country of different colored people with black hair reeling from the world's latest natural disaster; it's my friends and neighbors living on a different coast.  I never met them but they were the nicest, most generous people I have ever known.  I am heartbroken that any of them have to go through this.


naomi said...

thanks, dave.

ReBekha said...

Beautiful thoughts, wonderfully expressed. Thank you, Dave.

Mom said...

What a beautiful, heartwarming and heartfelt message. Thanks for so eloquently sharing your thoughts.