Not being in Japan, and not experiencing this firsthand, it has been easier for me to not post photos and updates and lengthy accounts of my experiences. But that doesn’t mean that I have not been following it, that it has not been on my mind. And, this being quite the event, I feel that for the sake of the archives, for the sake of myself going back some months or years from now wondering what I posted about the earthquake, I should post something.
I was doing my thing two nights ago, studying in the lobby of my building. I give in to distraction for just a moment, to check in on Facebook and Twitter, and I suddenly see all these posts from all over Japan talking about an earthquake. Must be a pretty strong earthquake to be felt not just in Tokyo, but all the way out in Noto and Kyoto, I thought.
I loaded up some news pages, and quickly learned that it was the largest earthquake in Japan in recorded history. Also, that about 20% of all earthquakes magnitude 6 or greater happen in Japan. It was scary enough just reading these tweets and such, about how the shaking just kept coming, wouldn’t stop, and how for most of my friends this was their first time seeing things shake off the shelves. One friend’s apartment, I heard yesterday, has been totally ruined, all kinds of things smashed and destroyed. But, overall, while quite frightening I am sure, things were thankfully milder in Tokyo, and I’m pretty sure everyone I know is alright.
Then there were the photos and videos from Sendai. I was watching videos of tsunamis sweeping inland, carrying cars and trucks and boats smashing into wooden homes and sweeping over rice fields and roads, picking up cars and tons of debris… watching these just as the sirens started to go off and people in the lobby of my dorm building started talking about what level the warning was at and what to send out to the community.
I was quite certain that we would be just fine up here – not quite “in the mountains” per se, but fairly close to it, and a good distance from the sea. With about four hours warning, they evacuated much of Waikiki and other flood zones, and I later heard that there was minimal damage.
I sent out an email to my family, letting them know, four hours before the tsunamis hit Hawaii, that I was sure I would be perfectly fine, and not to worry. Put up something on Facebook too. People don’t know what it’s like, how far from the ocean I am, what the situation is, and I don’t blame them. Woke up yesterday morning to a great many texts and Facebook posts asking after me – and a few from people in Japan reassuring me of their safety – so that’s pretty much done with.
But it still feels like one of those days. One of those days where you shouldn’t just return to your normal routine, but should stay glued to the news, and keep the current events, the disaster, in your mind. .. I am sure that as I continue to obsessively check Facebook and Twitter the rest of the day, new photos and videos and reports will come up.
Sounds terribly frightening – and the photos and videos of what’s going on further north are truly scary and saddening – but I am glad that all my friends are safe. .. It remains to be seen, I guess, what the final total cost will be, in terms of deaths and damage. I haven’t heard much about Sendai City itself, the most major urban area in that part of the country. Is it like Christchurch or New Orleans? Is it like Kobe? Or is it mostly fine outside of the rural coastal communities we saw wiped out in that tsunami?
Waiting and anxious. My heart goes out to those in Tohoku faced with the worst of this disaster.
There are of course tons of accounts online by this point, from major news outlets to personal blogs; this report from the Vancouver Sun is one of the best I’ve come across just yet; a full day or so old, but covering a wide range of aspects of the event in numerous videos from Reuters, from the effects in Tokyo to videos of the water flowing over fields in Sendai, to early versions of the news about the nuclear plant.
I hope that all of you, dear readers, are safe and sound, and I pray for the safety of those hit hardest, in Tohoku.
If you would like to give a donation to relief efforts, Japan Society in New York has set up a fund for that. This page also contains links to a number of resources to help you find and contact friends and loved ones in Japan.
Stay safe, everyone.