Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake

When my family and I lived in Japan, we used to talk about how "the big one" could hit at any moment. The last big quake our region had seen was in 1923. We were long overdue. That disaster, the Great Kantō quake, measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. Today's quake was an estimated 8.9.

We used to feel smaller quakes all the time. To be honest, those little ones were kind of fun. The walls would tremble, glass would rattle, but nothing dangerous happened. There were two distinct types we could feel, those that shook the ground back and forth, and those that rolled more like a wave, rising and falling. Despite the small thrill they gave us, they were a constant reminder of the danger of a larger quake hitting. It was frightening to think about, but it was also something we couldn't dwell on, mainly because that would be a waste of energy. All we could do was be prepared. Well, as prepared as you can be when you're at the mercy of Mother Nature.

At my kids' old International School today, the kids were in their 6th period classes when the earthquake struck. Students, teachers, and staff gathered on the football field outside the buildings and stood shivering in the cold without jackets for hours as they waited for the all clear. Even then, since train service was suspended, many were stuck out in Chofu, unable to make it home.

Still, they were lucky. The area has electricity and running water. The buildings weren't damaged. In downtown Tokyo, an auditorium where 600 people - students, family and friends - had gathered for a graduation ceremony collapsed. Our students consider themselves blessed.

My friends who work in downtown Tokyo are all accounted for. Most of them were stranded at their offices for several hours until train service resumed (some lines.) Others walked home, even though they lived miles away. The phones are down, but they have been able to email and text to get news and to confirm that they are OK.

Where my husband lived up in Sendai, it's another story. Buildings crumbled. A 30-foot tsunami washed ashore minutes after the quake hit. Hundreds are dead. Communication in that area has been nonexistent.

Many of my friends express how worried they are about their elderly relatives or friends who are stranded alone with no electricity, no heat. Some of them have been unable to contact their loved ones since the quake struck. They ask for thoughts and prayers on their behalf.

Today, instead of offering a Freebie Friday, I want to switch it around, if you don't mind. Christchurch, New Zealand is still struggling to recover from their disaster. Sendai and surrounding areas in Japan are devastated. Please consider making a donation to the disaster relief organization of your choice. Here's a link to a list of some resources if you don't know where to begin.