Reported by Gerald Wright, UFRA Newsletter Editor
On March 11, 2011, I was not in Japan but in Napa, California. It was sometime on Thursday evening over there, and I was writing an email to my wife, when she emailed me first: “Big earthquake now. Everything in the house shutoff. Cannot contact the kids. Water pipes around the house broke. Things in the house fallen down.” Thus began a terrible night of watching live TV images of tsunami waves plowing through fields and villages, of fires breaking out in Odaiba and Ichihara, of commuters stranded in Tokyo. Japan never felt so close, but yet so far away as my phone calls wouldn’t go through and even internet messages were taking so long to get through or even not at all. Everything turned out fine in the end: Lek and the kids were shaken but safe and I was able to return safely and easily by Sunday evening.
Except for the canceled limousine bus routes to Urayasu, everything at the airport looked normal. I didn’t notice anything amiss until I walked out of Shin-Urayasu Eki and began to see the mud, the cracked stairs and sunken pavement. With all the mud and bumps and dirty cars, the streets reminded me of those at a ski resort in early spring. But I was glad to be home and I was ready to help out in any way I could.
It’s been a little more than a week since the terrible earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It’s hard to know where to begin, but utmost in our hearts are our thoughts and prayers for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Homes, villages, communities, families and lives have been destroyed, and we grieve for their losses. Indeed, we struggle just to comprehend what has happened, to take in and process the information, to make a guess what will result or happen next.
Here in Urayasu, we too have suffered; we too are victims. Our suffering is minuscule compared to that up north; indeed, we may feel lucky to have “dodged the bullet.” But some of us experienced fear as we never had before as buildings swayed, streets cracked, and the entire metropolis was plunged into darkness and even smoke and fire. We couldn’t contact our loved ones, and some of us went for hours without information or reassurance that our family members were safe. And since the quake, we continue to experience fear with every new aftershock and disruption via blackouts, train delays, damaged infrastructure. We are victims as a result of this unexpected threat of nuclear disaster. Whether we remain calmed by facts as stated by those in charge or get stirred up by hyperbolic bloggers and foreign media, we suffer as we daily check the news and struggle to make the right decision and to explain it our loved ones here or abroad.
After the quake, we learn that our city has suffered a significant amount of damage. In many areas, the ground liquefied, causing mud to bubble up through cracks in streets and sidewalks or some houses and small buildings to shift on their foundations. In some ways we can say we survived ground liquefaction pretty well; most of the larger buildings appear to have remained intact with little or no structural damage. But for many of us it’s been a shock to see how powerful even this force of nature can be.
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