As all of you I am sure know, a devastating earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand last week, killing at least 161 people. Inside the collapsed CTV building, many Japanese students and teachers from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages were having lunch when the earthquake struck. According to news reports, the building collapsed within a matter of seconds after the quake hit. The last thing some survivors remember is shattered walls falling toward them. About 28 Japanese people, including 12 students from Toyama, have not been accounted for yet and are feared dead. One of them is the retired principal of Namerikawa High School, where my friend Jenson teaches. News reports first indicated she was rescued and was being treated in the hospital. Jenson told me that her husband was so relieved to hear the good news, only to become very ill upon hearing that his wife has not been found yet.
Like every major natural disaster, this is of course a tragedy beyond words, and I can’t imagine the pain those with family members still missing are feeling. My thoughts are with them all. You can donate to the New Zealand Red Cross here. At last week’s JET Fest, I was humbled to see how many Japanese donated to help with relief efforts.
On a small aside, I would like to share some personal thoughts about things that have been on my mind this week. Five days after the New Zealand earthquake, a moderate earthquake struck Toyama early Sunday morning. Thankfully, there was no damage or injuries reported. I am told earthquakes are rare in Toyama (something about Mt. Tateyama protecting the area). But Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” When I awoke Sunday morning, it felt like someone was shaking my bed. A little scared because of the New Zealand tragedy, the words of famed Chicago journalist Mike Royko came to mind. He wrote a famous column when his first wife, Carol, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at the age of 44. Royko was famously sarcastic and witty in most of his columns, and in my opinion, no other journalist has yet to match his Everyman tongue. Yet in this column, he was at his most humble and honest:
“We met when she was 6 and I was 9. Same neighborhood street. Same grammar school. So if you ever have a 9-year-old son who says he is in love, don’t laugh at him. It can happen…. If there’s someone you love but haven’t said so in a while, say it now. Always, always, say it now.”
I first read this when I was in high school and still find it moving. So, to my family and friends around the world: I love you all very much.