Everyone who was in Japan at the time of the March 11th earthquake has a story to tell. It was big and dramatic enough to sear all those tiny details into one’s memory for years. With 6 years having passed none of the details have seemed to fade yet. That earthquake was one of my firsts. During my study abroad years, I had the pleasure of seeing photos knocked off walls from a quake, but it was short lived and not at all dangerous. The family I was with was completely nonchalant and calm, like nothing happened. My naive Louisianian self didn't really comprehend the power of an earthquake. I just assumed the ground shook and when it was done everyone went back to their lives like normal. So the day of the quake, I really didn’t know what was going on. Graduation had just finished and all of the students had gone home except a few kids finishing up some projects or practice for their clubs. The teachers were relaxed, finally a break from the ficada of acting busy all day everyday. There was chatter and everyone was light spirited. I went to the kitchen area and poured myself a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee, ready to doze off at my desk until 4pm when I would go home. And that's when the school started to shake. I figured it would pass quickly and I could go back to my desk in a second or two...or three...or ten...then another teacher grabbed my arm and pulled me to go outside, everyone screaming “nigerou!!(Run Away!!)” Panicked but unwilling to spill hot coffee all over someone else’s desk, I scurried with the teachers, cup in hand, onto the veranda and downstairs to the open field behind the school. We all watched as the four story concrete building we worked and taught at swayed. Students were panicking and scream, the teachers scrambling around trying to headcount and corral everyone on the field. Then there was me, sipping my coffee like the awkward foreigner that I am. As the ground continued to quake for a few minutes more, I set my coffee down and went to help calm the students with some fun humor in a completely non-humourous situation. It seemed to work because the students settled down and when the earth also seemed to finally settle, the decision for the students and staff to go home and check on their families and homes was made. Us teachers tentatively entered the teachers room only to gather a few of our things, leaving the rest of the mess to be dealt with the following Monday. And it was a mess.
Student's papers were all over the room, books and shelves down on the floor. It was then that the severity of the earthquake began to dawn on me. We watched on tv as information about the epicenter began being broadcast along with tsunami warnings all across the coast. Where I lived, we were safe. However I had friend's and their families that lived in many of the places in the biggest danger. I spent the next few hours in my apartment unconcerned about my own things, but desperately trying to contact those I knew to be sure they were safe. Devastating isn't even a good enough word to describe the amount of destruction caused by that quake and the resulting tsunamis. Families, towns even, were torn apart. And I was safe inside my Gunma bubble. There was a lot to deal with later on, like rolling blackouts and food and gas shortages. But I was very lucky. I may not have had electricity everyday, but I still had it and a place to live. Bread and milk were no where, but I had food.
Life basically did go back to normal, but for those in the tsunami affected areas, they will never get back their lives. Appreciate what you have, because in a mere few minutes, the world around you can shift and change.