As we approach the one year anniversary (April 7th) of Japan’s earthquake, I find myself wondering just what people went through in the weeks that followed the disaster.
In total there have been 15,850 people confirmed dead, 6,011 injured and to date there are still 3,278 people missing.
For those of us who have never been through an earthquake, its nearly impossible to imagine what it might be like. Take a moment to picture yourself, going about your normal daily routine, getting your coffee ready, eating breakfast, perhaps dropping off the children at school. You get to work or school, go to a few meetings or attend a class or two. Around noon, you eat your lunch and maybe squeeze in a workout if you have time. It’s getting to be around 2 o’clock and your children will be getting out of school within the hour. Perhaps one of your responsibilities is to pick up the children, so you start wrapping up whatever your task is you’re working on and head out the door. You pick up your child or children around 2:30 or so and you’re driving along the Eastern coast line. There is a picturesque scene out your right window over the ocean. You come down a steep hill down into the village and suddenly you can feel a shuddering in your car. The first thought that goes through your mind is that the car must be having having engine problems. Then, your car begins to skip across the road a few feet and as you look around a light pole falls over. Down the road a house is literally moving side to side. Suddenly, your car is thrust into the air three feet and slams down onto the pavement as your children scream in the back-seat. You are completely helpless as your car is tossed about on the road as it ripples under the waves transmitted through the ground from two hundred miles offshore. Three buildings around you fall to the ground with an explosive force that blows out your left passenger window and another vehicle is slammed into your’s by the powerful movement of the road beneath you. You realize suddenly that you’ve been slamming your foot down on the brakes though out the event and take your foot off the brake as your leg slams into the steering column and the airbags explode around you. Within a minute everything stops moving and car alarms and fire alarms can be heard all around you. Somewhere you can hear a woman screaming ad a few babies crying. Something down the street explodes and you can feel the concussive force of the explosion through your window.
Then you notice a small whimpering sound and push the airbag out of the way to look back to the rear seat. Your little boy is crying in the back seat with fear in his eyes and blood streaming down his face from a laceration on his scalp. That’s when you notice an odd sound, a roaring sound. You look towards the eastern side of the village and the entire village seems to be lifting beyond the trees. No, wait, it’s not lifting, its the trees, building debris and cars that are rising up, meters off the ground. That’s when you realize that water is rushing towards you, too late to do anything about it, the water rises under your car and slams debris into your car. Your entire vehicle, with you and your child in it are lifted off the ground and moving in a river of debris sweeping through the valley that was your peaceful village only 8 minutes ago. Three minutes later your car, slowly sinking, is grounded on top of a hillside. You are one of the few, lucky enough to survive the tsunami from the earthquake. You struggle to get yourself and your three year old out of the back seat and onto solid ground. A moment after you stand on the ground, another tremor hits, rocking you on your feet causing you to land on your butt holding your child. Your car slides down the hill, back into the sweeping water.
As you look around after the ground stops moving again, fires float on top of the water, people scream for help that will never get any. A child is crying on top of a bus as it is floating past you and you and the several dozen people around you can do nothing but watch as everything flows by.