Close To Home

Like many of the major disasters that have happened during my short stint on Earth, I was a little bit late in finding out about the tragedy that struck Japan on March 11th.

My friend Sherry sent me a text at about 7 AM, asking me if I heard about what happened in Japan. The last thing I’d seen in the news was the resignation of a cabinet member because he accepted foreign money during his campaign, and I thought that’s what she was referring to.

She told me that there was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

My first thought was that large cities collapsed, similar to what happened in China back in 2008. It wasn’t until I turned on my computer did I realize it was much worse.

Footage of the tsunami showed waves wiping out homes, cars, entire towns like they were crumbs on a tablecloth. Fires were consuming buildings like they were kindling. Crowds of people trying to reach higher ground, watching the wreckage float past them.

It’s horrible for anyone to look at.

Being as American as I am, I can’t help but keep at least one foot in the country of my cultural heritage. I scan the LA Times and Wikipedia for news. I watch NHK when I have the chance. By birth, I’d be the cousin once removed from the lineup. Two-thirds of my name is Japanese. You’d better believe the earthquake had me concerned.

My concern turned into high-level worry when I heard about the power plant in Fukushima. My maternal grandmother’s family is from that area, and we still have cousins who live on the family land. The pictures I had seen of the place showed little more than your basic Japanese country house, complete with a small scale vegetable garden and a convenient trip from our ancestors’ graves. (If I was asked to spend the night during a visit, I’d do the bare minimum stay.)

I stopped watching the news as of yesterday. For one, the lack of information is incredibly frustrating. For another, the images of the wreckage and the survivors leaves me in tears. It was enough to see small children being scanned to see if they had any radiation contamination and to hear that iodine tablets were being prepared for distribution.

We finally got some news about family today. A cousin of my grandmother has lost her house. We’re not sure how the others are faring; we can’t get through on the phone. Another cousin in Tokyo managed to call us to let us know he and his family are okay; my grandmother gave him a list of numbers in Fukushima to try.

I’m trying to lose myself by following Tweets and posts on Facebook, but I feel guilty. I’ve got power, food, water, and a relatively solid roof over my head. I don’t know if my relatives have even that much right now.

I know I haven’t been a bundle of joy to be around these past two days, but I feel so helpless.

  1. Please don’t apologize for worrying about your family.

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