As many of you know, there was an earthquake in the north of Japan yesterday. We’re still feeling some of the aftershocks now in Tokyo. In fact, there’s one right now as I’m writing this.
I was at my desk, grading some papers when it started to shake. Now, we’re used to earthquakes here; I’m guilty of that, too. I paused, waiting for it to die down, but it kept going, and then it started to shake more. Keep in mind that I work on the 3rd floor so I’m thinking that I’m shaking more than the ground really is anyway. Then my co-worker, Atsuko, and I start talking across the room. “Should we…” “Yeah, let’s get under our desks.” It pauses for a second, and I hear the door slam. She’s gotten up, and is trying to make sure the door will open. It’s against everything that I learned, and against all the drills, but I grabbed by coat, purse, and watch, and darted out the door, Atsuko at my heels. One of the cleaning ladies is frozen, in the middle of the hallway, with her hand on a door handle. She says she’s going to stay.
Right next to her are the stairs; they’re all creaking. I tell myself it’s just the building moving because it’s earthquake proof and bolt down. The next floor, though, the stairs above us are making even more sound. All the drills that I’ve done K-12 are going through my head again, Atsuko is starting to express her doubts, but I think “screw it” if it gets worse now, we’re really screwed. As we bolted out the door, we saw others running out as well.
The crowd in front of school was getting larger and larger. There are quite a few people, but thank goodness school is out until April. Everyone is trying to make sure that everyone else has made it out safely.
Then, someone gets on the intercom “*beeep* uhhhhhh everyone who has yet evacuate, please do so now.” Laughter rises from the crowd. Someone snickers “It’s a little late, don’t ya think?” We’ve all already bolted out, and have checked in with each other. Now no one is sure what to do. Getting cold, we’re all a little antsy to get back inside. Graduation is next week, we want to finish graduation prep. As someone is about to speak over a megaphone, a rather large aftershock hits. Everyone squats down (even in situations like this, Japanese people do not sit on the ground). As I’m about to actually sit, I look out, and get a déjà vu.
For 2 nights after I got back from England, I had terrible dreams. Ones where I was looking out on a desolate area after a quake. Buildings crashed to the ground, fire everywhere, babies crying, apocalypse style. When I tried to distract myself from this by thinking of something else, my mind would allow me to only go in terrifying directions- what it would be like to be a child in an impoverished neighborhood of South Africa, human trafficking in Russia and Southeast Asia… Seriously. It just get kept getting worse and worse. And that feeling from my dream, that hopeless, empty feeling rushed back and was getting the best of me, even though we were all ok, buildings were still intact, and we even busted out a big box of hand warmers.
Once most of the aftershocks ceased, we were allowed back in the building. We were to get our personal belongings and go to the 1st floor, where we could be inside where it was warm, but close enough to evacuate. I live right by campus so I walked home (and that’s where I am now).
That’s where the second wave of emotion hit me. ML was the first to email, then I started getting tweets and fb messages checking in on me and I feel so blessed to have so many people checking in to make sure I’m ok. Living in Japan feels really lonely sometimes, but I’m so happy that when it comes down to it, there are so many people who are looking out for me- even from really far away. The maintenance guy who lives below me even came by to check on me and to turn my gas back on.
Some people are stuck in the cafeteria at the school that I work at. One of my co-workers came by to bring me some emergency food that was passed out. Vacuum packed bread and bottled water. I’d been inviting her to just stay at my place, but it sounds like they are doing alright there, and having a good time chatting and sharing this experience together.
I am so lucky right now. I’m at home, with power, now gas, running water, and I know that so many people have it so much worse. Those who have had to leave their homes, those who cannot get home, and those who cannot get in touch with their loved ones. As happy I should be to be safe right now, I cannot help but feel so helpless that there’s nothing I can do for those who are not as fortunate as I.
On a slightly funny note, my parents have yet to contact me. Pretty sure they are sleeping soundly on the east coast.
They were asleep. Just got an e-mail from my parents. Both to the gist of and one “Not fair. We were asleep. Glad you are ok.” verbatim.
Thought I would pass along this link for earthquake information in Japan: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/quake/
I think I’m going crazy. I can’t tell if the earth is shaking or if it’s just me anymore.