Earthquake 2011

Thanks for your concern. We’re OK, at least so far. The body count keeps rising; there are threats of power outages and possible nuclear meltdown; people are hoarding food. The general mood I’m getting is subdued; everyone is wondering if the quakes have finally stopped and just how awful the fallout is going to be. There’s nothing on TV but shots of utter devastation and talking heads making dire predictions; the loss in terms of life and property is incalculable.

For those interested in gory details, I was on my bicycle waiting for a traffic light to change when the first quake hit. I noticed some power lines shaking and thought, “That’s odd. It isn’t that windy.” Then I noticed that everything was shaking, including me. And it went on and on and on. There weren’t any tall buildings near me so I moved under a big old Sakura tree to wait it out. A couple of ladies and kids joined me and we just stared blankly at each other as we tried to keep our balance. And it went on and on. It felt like we were standing on the deck of a ship swaying in the waves.

There have been lots of quakes in the 24 years I’ve lived here. There are two types, the bouncy type that usually jolts you out of bed and only lasts a second or two, and the rolling type that we had this time. They usually only last a few seconds, too, but I think they said the first one went on for about three minutes. The only thing that scary that I’ve ever experienced was a flight to Saipan in the tail end of a typhoon. They tried to land but it was just too bumpy so we circled and circled. After a while the pilots stopped making announcements and everyone got really quiet. Eventually they had to land. They would have run out of gas and there’s no place else to go in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was very bumpy—things flying around and people screaming–but we landed safely and I cried like the sissy I didn’t know I was. The pilots greeted us as we got off the plane and I’ve never seen two paler white guys.

Back to Tokyo. When things finally calmed, I tried to call home but the lines were jammed. I was too shaken to ride my bike so I walked the rest of the way home, where everything was fine…until a few minutes later when the second quake hit. We opened windows and held onto doorways and just stood there feeling helpless. And it went on and on.

That was Friday afternoon. Now it’s Sunday morning. There were smaller aftershocks for the rest of the day, then two new quakes the next day in Nagano, and another one this morning off Chiba. We were lucky; I keep finding things that fell over but nothing got broken. Our utilities are working and except for the occasional aftershock, things seem to be back to normal, as long as I don’t look at the TV. Rescue workers are arriving from around the world but mostly they don’t know where to start. The tsunamis destroyed the railways and roads and the mud is thick. The death count is up to 2500 and it will go higher. Mostly I just feel horribly sad, and I have to admit, scared, and it’s hard to live with that kind of fear. I shouldn’t whine. I don’t think I know any of those people, but I’ve lived here a long time and have come to love and hate this culture. Warts and all, this is a great place to live, or at least it was until Friday afternoon. Today is warm and sunny and I’m grateful for that, but can’t help wondering how much worse it’s going to get.

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One Response to Earthquake 2011

  1. Pingback: Five Years Later | Tokyo Tales

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