Photo by Douglas Sprott on Flickr
I would first like to say that this is not a happy story. This is a story of tragedy, of sadness. This is a story of remembrance.
On March 11th, 2011 at 14:49, an earthquake occurred. Lasting a total of six minutes, the quake was a 9.1 on the Richter scale and triggered a tsunami. The epicenter of the earthquake was off the coast of Tohoku, Japan. My family lived just three hours away in Misawa AB, Japan. When the earthquake occurred I was walking home from school with my friend Jojo. We were arguing about how tall I was. I thought I was only a half foot shorter than he was, while he thought I was a full foot shorter than him. I was only one house down from my own when the shaking started.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, no one was found hurt and no buildings had collapsed. The only thing that broke in my house was a green vase with black webbing designs that my parents had as a wedding present. The commander of the base had everyone consolidate houses with others for our safety. Our neighbors invited us to stay over at their place until everything calmed down.
The power and water were out for three days. None of the kids had realized anything bad had happened, as earthquakes were a mildly common occurrence in Japan. We could never have imagined the destruction of the tsunami.
Eventually, orders were given, and my family, except for my mission-critical dad, was evacuated to the states. We stayed with my grandparents in Philadelphia for about 4 months, from March to June. I was told we were going on vacation, still unaware of all the damage that had been caused.
When we returned to Japan, everything was back to normal, in my eyes at least. I contributed to the cause by putting together backpacks for kids in shelters with my Girl Scout troop. We made 52 backpacks in all. I was then volun-told (when your parent signs you up for something you didn’t know about) to go to a shelter in Tohoku to help the victims there.
When we arrived at the shelter, the guide led us on a tour of the town. The damage was devastating. I learned that the water had risen to over six feet in height. I had asked my mom if the water had gone up to her height. My mom is 5’10” and my surprise was genuine when she said “Honey, that water rose taller than Uncle Tom.” My uncle is 6’6” (for reference, I was 3’11”). I was unaware that anything like this had happened. The details were all drastically toned down for me. All I knew was that there was an earthquake and a few buildings fell down. I didn't expect to see wreckage for miles and not a single, solid structure around.
However, in the wreckage, I saw something that will stay with me forever. It was a (mostly) undamaged toilet in the middle of what was formerly a house. Growing in the toilet was the prettiest flower I had ever seen in my life. The petals were a magnificent purple with little magenta spots spiraling towards the flower’s center. This flower taught me that even in the midst of destruction, beauty can grow.
Ten years ago, on March 11th, 2011 at 14:49 an earthquake occurred. Lasting a total of six minutes, the quake was a 9.1 on the Richter scale and triggered a tsunami. The epicenter of the earthquake was off the coast of Tohoku, Japan, and caused the deaths of over 20,000 people, the evacuation of 500,000 people, and a nuclear power plant meltdown which then caused a nuclear emergency. Take a minute to remember the lives lost that day, and remember to hold on to those closest to you.