Last year on this exact date, March 11, I stared at my computer and TV in a daze. My Japanese TV looked like this:
One of the largest earthquakes in history had just hit Japan and a tsunami washed away towns in an instant. On top of that, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was severely damaged and leaking radiation. Even several hours after the disaster, I had no idea that more than 19,000 lives were lost in a single moment. All of us in Japan were still trying to understand what had just happened. With constantly watery eyes and an uneasy stomach, I refreshed the BBC’s Website for the latest news and phoned my family back home as much as possible.
I was safe in a warm and clean apartment with clothes, food and friends. Meanwhile our neighbors to the northeast were grappling with how to survive.
Being in Japan during and in the aftermath of the quake, I can say that I feel changed for the better. Shamefully, I sometimes still have moments of self-pity where I can’t seem to see how lucky I really am. But I also feel stronger and humbled by what I’ve seen the human spirit endure even in the darkest of times.
My thoughts on this day are with all of those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, or 3.11 as it is called here. I hope this is something we don’t remember only once a year. It should stay with us forever.
Below, I have listed some of the most compelling media I have encountered regarding the anniversary.
Arigato from Japan – This moving video also includes the story of Taylor Anderson, one of two teachers with the JET Programme who were killed by the tsunami.
Fukushima’s Brave Hearts by The Guardian‘s Elena Omura – This thought-provoking essay discusses the often-ignored socioeconomic impact of the tsunami. “One can’t help but wonder if the discourse would be different had it been Tokyo that was washed away,” Omura writes. “The fact is Tohoku’s economy and industries were already in severe decline prior to 3/11. It was one of the most isolated regions of Japan, and young people were leaving in vast numbers, seeking better opportunities elsewhere.”
Japan tsunami pictures: before and after – Some fellow ALTs shared this Boston Globe photo essay on Facebook. If you click on pictures two through seven, you can see the exact same spot after the tsunami and exactly one year later.
All of these stories are haunting reminders that so much still needs to be done. がんばって！