RSY vol 20.Two years to the day, looking back on days passed from then till now (Part 1)
by Voices from the Field Admin - Monday, 9 September 2013, 02:20 PM


The day, “March 11th”, has come again. It means two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

“It was sad. It was tough.” Were there only those feeling with two years? No, even then, there were definitely moments of “happiness and fun”.

I would like to introduce the tale and determination of one resident who is struggling with the reality after two years since the disaster.

Mrs. A:

When the earthquake struck on March 11th, I was driving back home from Rifu town (neighboring town of Shichigahama). Suddenly, I felt being swayed from side to side, I was startled. I stopped the car and curled up. It was a very long shaking. Soon after, I headed home. I thought my house had collapsed, but it was still standing. Everything was all right except a flower vase which had fallen down in the entrance hall. Outside, the major tsunami warning sirens wailed.

Looking back now, I think I was in a panic already at that time. I had thought my husband and I should run together, but I said to him to go separately, thinking we would need our cars (we had two cars). “You can go ahead. Go to Chuo Kominkan (the central public hall).” I don’t know why I had told him to go to an evacuation center which was far away. (We usually went to a nearby elementary school during emergency drills.) I assumed that even if the tsunami came, it would not reach up to floor level. I got our family mortuary tablet, blankets and medicines from my house and tried to leave, but I couldn’t, because the steering wheel was locked. I must’ve been in a panic because I couldn’t unlock it, though I usually could do it easily. I got out and stood looking around, even though it was very cold and snowing heavily. My neighbor came over and unlocked the steering wheel for me saying, “What are you doing? Run now.”

I didn’t go to either the Chuo Kominkan or the elementary school. Instead, I went to my friend’s house on higher ground where the tsunami would not reach. On my way, I shuddered seeing the encroaching waters. I tried to make calls but they would not go through at that time. Later in the afternoon, I could reach my husband and daughter and I told them to meet me at the evacuation center in the elementary school. As there were so many people already, we stayed in our car for two nights. All we received was only one small rice ball for each of us.

Afterwards, we moved to our relative’s house in Tagajo City (neighboring town of Shichigahama). We stayed there only for about one week. While we were there, our family was assigned “water duty”, so we went around many places looking for water. Then we moved to my parent’s home in Rifu. Since we moved to Tagajo, three days after the earthquake occurred, we had often visited our house in Shichigahama. Once when I was still staying at the evacuation center, I went and looked at my house and thought, “You are really strong to have endured the tsunami. How remarkable! We will come back to live there, so let’s hang in there.”

Actually, though, our house was far from being livable. A utility pole and debris were stuck in our house. My husband, my daughter and I cleaned up inside of our house while about 10 neighbors took care of the outside. Then, in June, we won the lottery and finally started to live in temporary housing.

In August, we installed new window glass in our house to prevent burglars from entering. After we moved to temporary housing, we rarely visited our house anymore. I don’t know why, but it might be because we could see the sea from the house. By September, we started to face the reality. “We still have 10 years remaining on our housing loan. We also need money to repair the house. We aren’t feeling well because of living in the temporary housing.” I felt depressed and was so worried about our future that I even blurted out, “Why didn’t the tsunami just wash me away? Maybe it would’ve been better to die if life is going to be so tough.” My daughter just agreed with me.

If I didn’t meet the volunteers just at that time, I don’t know what could have happened to me. It started with volunteers who played with my grandchildren. As the temporary housing unit was very small, children felt stressed, too. I heard from some children about the volunteers who lived nearby and played with them. I initially visited the volunteers to thank them for playing with the children. But I unintentionally ended up talking about myself a lot. Once I had spoken, I felt refreshed. I felt like something which had been stuck in my heart went away.

To tell the truth, I used to be cautious about the volunteers because I had been warned that some were not good. But after that talk, my impression of them changed completely. I decided to ask them to help clean up my house. I went to the volunteer center right away to make the request. As a result, they cleaned up our house very nicely. I really appreciate it.
Thanks to them, we will move out of temporary housing and start to live in our house again at the end of April.

But still, we are worried about our future.

Reported by Akitsugu Goko, Rescue Stock Yard

Originally reported in Japanese on 14 March, 2013