It has been about two weeks now since the 9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan and triggered the tsunami which caused so much damage and loss of life. It has been a real emotional rollercoaster and it has taken me a while before I really felt comfortable talking about it. The picture attached to this post was not taken by me, but it is an aerial picture of the town that I was born in, Rikuzentakata.
When I came home that Thursday night and heard that there was an earthquake near Sendai, my initial reaction was, "Big deal, they happen all the time." When I was young I never really understood why my mother would call my relatives in Japan after each earthquake, because the response would always be that everyone was safe and there was no need to worry. Then I started seeing the footage of the tsunami coming in to Sendai and watched as buildings and moving cars were swept away like they were toys. I realized that the landscape that was shown was not so dissimilar from the area around my uncle's house in Sendai and suddenly the pictures on the screen looked much, much worse.
Then I started hearing the names of cities that were destroyed. My actual family home is in a tiny village called Fuppushi which is right on the boarder between Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. The cities to the north and south are far enough off the beaten path that you would rarely hear anyone mention them in conversation. But now Kesennuma to the south, where one of my distant aunt's lived, was a city engulfed in flames. And Rikuzentakata to the north, the city that is on my birth certificate, was "wiped off the face of the earth."
For the first several days, I spent every free moment in front of the television or computer trying to get more information. I was able to reach one of my aunts near Tokyo who informed me that my relatives in Sendai were safe, but there was no way to reach the folks in Rikuzentakata. By Tuesday all of my close relatives were safely accounted for, but things still looked pretty grim at the evacuation centers and the nuclear threat was getting worse all the time. This is when it started to be too much for me. For several days I couldn't stand to watch the news anymore. The details of the damage were bad and getting worse, while I couldn't do anything except listen and wait. I would still get updates from my family, but for the most part I just didn't want to think about what was happening in Japan anymore.
After about a week I think I just started to feel numb about the whole thing. Life here in LA was pretty much the way it had always been. Even things in Tokyo seemed to be back to business as usual. I started checking the front page news again and occasionally reading the details of the state of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. I was still worried about everyone in Japan, but it wasn't so overwhelming anymore.
Again, it has been two weeks now, but I have still to get in direct contact with my relatives in Rikuzentakata. I stay in touch with my relatives elsewhere, in case anyone needs anything from me, but for now it is mostly a waiting game. My hopes are to find some time this summer to go and help with the rebuilding, once the infrastructure will allow for that. Otherwise, it's just a matter of hoping that things that are out of my control don't take a turn for the worse.