Learning How to Remember
The news is a very fickle thing. As an old journalism adage goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
I understand this. The news is constantly changing. Journalists are attempting to accurately record history as it unravels. It simply isn’t possible to cover every story out there.
What bothers me, however, is that once a certain time elapses, a story can seemingly disappear, even if people are still in need of help.
In my opinion, this is what is slowly happening to the coverage of what is now referred to as the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, as well as other natural disasters that devastated New Zealand, Haiti, China, India and many other countries. I even forgot about the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, which killed 70,000, until a friend reminded me of it recently.
In the weeks following the disasters in Tōhoku, I could barely open my computer without rushing to read the latest coverage. The BBC was my news outlet of choice, mainly because I found it the least sensational among the other big networks. Some images I saw on the news still upset me to this day, but I couldn’t look away.
Almost five months later, I still read a lot of the news coverage coming from Tōhoku, especially about radiation concerns, but articles are becoming few and far between. A recent 7.0 aftershock in Fukushima barely made the news.
It has been, after all, a busy few months for those in the news industry, with Osama bin Laden’s death and political uprisings in the Middle East. But in Japan and elsewhere around the world, people are still in the recovery process, even if it has been months or years since tragedy struck.
Although still deeply saddened by the triple disasters that hit Japan, I am very removed from any chaos – my town was not affected by the tragedies and is more than 200 miles from the Fukushima nuclear situation. Yet I still can’t wrap my brain around what happened to our neighbors in the northeast. Every time I run by the sea, I think of its beauty but also of its sheer force that could wipe out a town in an instant.
As a way to remember, I would like to highlight three projects that have moved me. I continue to hope for the best for people around the world who have been affected by natural disasters.
1. “Life in Tōhoku” by Will Shep Moore. Moore, a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) in Nanto City, is a colleague and friend. He spent his spring vacation volunteering in the Tōhoku region and wrote about it for the Toyama for Charity blog.
2. “Arcade Fire in Haiti” by Régine Chassagne, a singer with the indie-rock group the Arcade Fire. In this article for The Guardian, Chassagne reflects on playing in her birth country, which is still recovering from last year’s 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 300,000. In my favorite part of the story, Chassagne writes about hope very tenderly: “Outside the gates of Cange, there is a newly built road that now leads all the way from Port-au-Prince. Thousands are walking to their mountain dwellings in peaceful silence and the only sound I hear is a lonely nocturnal rooster. A distant echo. In the rural mountains the moonlight seems thinner than usual, but Haitians have long mastered the art of finding their way in the dark.”
3. A Beacon of Rebirth Poster Project. These posters, created by an advertising professional from Morioka in Iwate prefecture and a Tokyo-based photographer, are scattered throughout Japan, including on windows and doors in my tiny Japanese town. Each time I see the images, I am reminded of how many lives were lost in an instant, but also of the strength of human nature. With no picture, one poster says, “Our wish soars the skies far beyond the waves.” Another, with three men standing between piles of rubble as high as buildings, says, “We are staying here and now.”
I hope that is something we never forget to write about.