It is a story I need to tell and it is meant as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the people of that stricken country - to let our friends in Japan know that we are thinking of them!
A friend of mine lives in Ishinomaki (a major fishing port not far from Sendai).
I won’t name her - she is entitled to her privacy - but I got to know her while she was studying spoken English here in Australia. She went back to Japan for a holiday late last year and, for various reasons, decided to stay there.
I was horrified when I heard the first news of the ‘quake and the tsunami. And then the pictures and videos started to appear …
The early reports said that my friend and family were “unaccounted for” but that was not an automatic death notice. Then I got a report that her father and sister were safe in their relatively-undamaged home but that she had taken her mother into town for a medical appointment. My heart sank … she could not have survived …
I was out riding my bicycle at the time and had to stop as tears filled my eyes. In truth, I sat on a grass verge and bawled my eyes out.
It took a while but I managed to piece together her story from several
As soon as it was safe and while the ground was still shaking, my friend grabbed her mother and headed for higher ground. She had a plan, as, I suspect, many Japanese people do. She knew what was probably coming and knew exactly where to go.
They arrived at a school, raced in and yelled at everybody to get to the top floors.
When they looked towards the ocean, they saw the tsunami start to move in. It didn’t take long and the school grounds were soon under a few feet of water. But it was the tsunami’s last gasp. They were safe!
The water eventually went down enough for them to go outside and scrape “HELP” and “SOS” in the mud but they were cut-off.
They had drinking water but no food and they weren’t rescued for more than two days.
Their rescuers gave them a hot meal of rice and fish, and started getting people to their homes, if they were still standing, or to rescue centres. Several of the children at the school were now orphans …
My friend and her mother had been told that the rest of the family was safe but I don’t think the news had got back the other way. I can only imagine the reunion scene.
I worked for many years in TV news and I’ve seen many disasters and much human suffering. I’ve tried to learn how to insulate myself (with limited success).
It was, perhaps, barely possible to hear what was happening in Japan and feel somewhat remote … unaffected.
But when you know and care about somebody who is there, when you have thought them dead and then found them alive, the mask, the insulating layer is stripped aside.
I am devastated and we’ve seen only the start …
And now it is snowing.
My heart goes out to you, and to all of Japan. There is little that I can do. But I want you and your friends to know that there are people around the world who care. You are all in my thoughts!
No United States service members currently conducting relief missions in Japan are showing symptoms of radiation poisoning, but some crew members are being given Potassium Iodide tablets as a precaution, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Additionally, the Pentagon said US forces in Japan are not permitted within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant without special authorization.
(Information via Reuters)