|Faculty medical librarian into bibliometrics, data management, scholarly communication; working on MS in health information systems. But you could see anything here.|
Miyako Remembrance - One Year After the Tsunami
With the tsunami, everything changed. There were no clean clothes to change into, because they were gone. There were no familiar beds to sleep in, because they were gone, too. There were no homes even to go home to, because they were gone and the roads had been swept away or strewn with wreckage and rubble.
But again, even in the first moments after the extent of the damage became apparent, your own humanity changed as you huddled around a warm hearth in a darkened and quiet temple atop a hill overlooking the now-calm sea. As fires burned across the bay and sirens blared but slowly went quiet, and as the sky too, not just the temple you were so thankful to be in, fell into a cold but clear dark, you shared what you had, emergency supplies or stories or cigarettes, with those around you, stranger and friend alike, and listened to a crank radio tell reports of a nuclear melt-down.
It was during these first hours, lucid but confused, that you simply saw the state of things as they were, without the certainty of work or weekend, without the superficiality of style or ego; there was no baggage to muddle your view because all of that had been washed away and there was only one thing that remained, survival, and that wasn’t something to be done on one’s own. You got through those nights because you weren’t alone, because no one in that small building standing just above the water line was alone.
And the next day came, and the day after that, and the day after that. With each successive moment, your head clear and less subjective because you knew you were alive and that was good enough, you wondered if and hoped that everyone you knew was as fortunate as you. Once able, you walked the lanes that had opened up between toppled houses and gored supermarkets, climbing over seemingly endless hills of debris all slick with mud, and the whole while you had no idea how far the devastation went so you just kept on going.
Your favorite restaurant whose owners were good friends, your barber shop whose stylist you would swear by, and even the train station at the center of town, you walked by all of these and still couldn’t seem to escape the wave’s influence. Finally into the west of the city, there was a semblance of normalcy and you saw people talking and couldn’t help asking, “Have you seen…?”
There are confirmations and denials. It was an exchange that was expected but never anticipated, but was nonetheless a very needed human interaction and so, ultimately, the stress of communication was endured. But you discover that those closest to you are alive and well and they find you, they take you in, they feed you, they clothe you, they provide solace in a time of vast uncertainty, and they give you a shovel. And as you weren’t alone on that first night, so you weren’t alone then either, and all you could do was grip that shovel tight and all you can say is “let’s go” because that bond, that spark is what kept you alive and it must be preserved.
And so back into the wasted remnants you go, trudging through muck to scoop out restaurants and gut their kitchens, ripping apart floorboards, down to the foundations, of houses that nominally remained. Worst of all were the fields of destruction on the coast, where you went not to resuscitate but to search. Friends lost parents and lovers there, and it was in those houses, or what was left of them, surrounded by soaked photo albums and broken glass, that the desperation of your world firmly settled in. It was on those nights more than any others, after filth had been washed from clothes and body, that we sat together and ate and drank with as much merriment as we could muster because without it the palpable gloom that spread over the city would have been strong enough to rip us apart, send us into depression, and we’d be alone. That was not an option, and so you moved on as a group, as tightly-knit as you’d ever known.
1 year. Can’t believe it, won’t ever forget. 東京に住んでてもこの宮古には帰ってくる。それは、故郷だもん。頑張って、宮古。万歳、宮古！
©Copyright 2012 Matthew Ketchum"
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