No.194 (8/26/11)

The Day
My Accounts of Japan's March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami

By Vahty Reynolds
Guest Writer

March 11th became the day that I will never forget. While my husband was deployed, I was originally on a three-week visit to see my family and friends in the states. Although I do not have firsthand experience of the events in Japan when it happened, it definitely took a huge toll on me emotionally. As soon as we heard news of the disaster, my family and I were glued all morning to the television screen. Most of the day I was in a state of shock while viewing the still images of where the tsunami hit and videos of places I had visited, which are now gone. I still remember all the text messages and phone calls I received from numerous people concerned for my well being and asking if I was going to be flying back to Japan.

My first fear was the uncertainty of the damage to the base and the people currently there, but I'm grateful through social networking websites that friends were unharmed. I was even fortunate enough to speak to a friend through a video call to see how she and her family was holding up. Although she was uninjured physically, I could tell the events had emotionally distressed her. She was contemplating leaving the base in hopes of fleeing the aftershocks for awhile. I was initially scheduled to fly back the day after the disaster, but word got out about flights being cancelled to and from Japan and a travel alert issued that only essential travel was being permitted.

As days past, there was more news about the unstable nuclear plants and missing towns. Confusion set in due to the information I was receiving from the media and from people in Misawa. The news coverage portrayed the whole country of Japan as being exposed to the radiation even though in fact it was only a small portion. I was petrified about traveling back, especially by myself. My family strongly insisted I stay there in Michigan until my husband got back, but that wasn't for another few months. Despite the fact that I was technically "home" I still missed my other home, Japan. I continued to watch and listen to every bit of information about Japan's situation.

After two months of being home, the travel alert was lifted. I finally felt safe to fly back to Japan, although my stomach was in knots the whole time while I was on the airplane. I avoided looking through the windows, understanding that the country I left was never to be the same. To my surprise, once I got off the plane at Narita Airport in Tokyo, the atmosphere was a sense of calmness. I highly admire the Japanese people and how civil they all were even with the tragedy their country had just gone through, and even though the physical state of Japan had shifted, their sense of humility stood firm against the events of that fateful day.

Post March 11th, Japan faces many difficult challenges. Given that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries, that couldn't help them withstand this destructive act of Mother Nature. It reminds us that we can never be fully prepared for such disasters. My heart goes out to all of those who have lost their homes and loved ones. It makes us all remember that life can change in seconds.

Now is the time for all of us to come together, put aside our cultural differences, and help our host country rebuild. Despite very little media coverage at the present, sadly there are still small towns in Japan and their people who are in desperate need of help. I'm lucky and proud to say that I have lived in Japan even during these unfortunate times, and I will be sad to leave this beautiful country.

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