One week ago we were informed of the earthquake outside Tokyo. When I first heard about it I thought they were referring to the 7.2 that occurred two days prior. When I was informed it was another one and registered 8.9, I still didn’t think anything of it…no one felt it and no one at the school seemed alarmed. We went out to Happy Hour at the Hard Rock Café and afterward to a friend’s house for some more conversation. It wasn’t until we got home that we realized the magnitude of what was going on – given the missed Skype calls, emails and posts on Facebook. We immediately called our parents who could barely talk due to worry and concern. Even after hearing our voices and assertions that we were OK, it probably wasn’t enough to put them totally at ease.
We watched the videos of the earthquake and the even more destructive tsunami. It seemed surreal…more like a Hollywood movie. The casualty numbers were amazingly (and gratefully) very low – given the magnitude of what just happened…a testament to how well prepared the Japanese are – even for something they hadn’t imagined.
We immediately checked the tsunami warning charts, and learned that Fukuoka only had a slightly elevated tide level. Since we were over 700 miles southwest of the disaster area and on the opposite coast, we were very fortunate to be in one of the safest places in all of Japan. We actually had a decent night’s sleep. I recall hearing about the damage at the nuclear plants, but it sounded like it wasn’t too serious and that it could be stabilized.
Saturday was a gloomy day and we were glued to our computers absorbing all the news and information we could. Sunday was so beautiful we had to get outside and joined some others for a barbeque on the river. At that point, the extent of what had happened was still sinking in, and it still seemed like they would get the nuclear plant problems under control. They were still expecting a significant aftershock, so that kept things unpredictable and very unstable.
Arriving at school on Monday set the emotional rollercoaster in motion. There was a solemn feeling around the school. Not knowing who at the school knew someone in the affected area. But beyond that, even if you didn’t know someone, somehow it cut to the heartstrings. Here it’s about ‘us’, it’s not about ‘me’. And everyone feels it.
We don’t have a TV, and even if we did we wouldn’t know what they were saying, so our news sources are the same as those in the US. The local sources were saying stay calm, no reason for alarm, no danger. Our sources were saying- apocalypse and evacuate. I imagine it’s somewhere in between and probably closer to the Japanese being more accurate because American news sources are the equivalent to the modern day ‘boy who cried wolf’. They exaggerate the story so much you can’t believe them. For some reason, they all want to be actresses and actors instead of news people. The story is still unfolding, so maybe I shouldn’t be so critical, but if I were in Vegas and making a bet, I think I’d be sitting pretty.
Back to the emotional rollercoaster: I can’t explain how often this week my brain was doing backflips from stress, to panic, to sadness, to helplessness and frustration, to fear and confusion and then back again to relief and some state of calmness. I was constantly exhausted….mentally and physically. It was hard to concentrate at work and I was subconsciously always thinking ‘what if’’? In the back of my mind, Spring Break couldn’t get here soon enough, and I was hoping things would stay stable so we could leave for Thailand. We are really hoping the situation sorts itself out over the next week, so Japan can get on with it’s rebuilding and recovery. While we still think everything will be OK and have every intention of returning, we will take with us everything we absolutely need (which isn’t much), just in case we have to extend our vacation.