Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not Just Another Earthquake...

It's been kind of a crazy weekend.  Life has been pretty quiet and normal for me here in Boston. However, my thoughts have been with my parents, who readers will remember live in Japan.

Thankfully, I woke up on Friday morning not to newspaper headlines or disturbing footage on TV. My first inkling that something was wrong was when Andrew happened to check his email on his iPhone at 5:30 a.m. and mentioned that my dad had emailed about an earthquake. Japan has earthquakes literally all the time, so it's usually not that big of a deal. In fact, I remember many a time when I was living in Japan during high school, and waking up to a light swaying in bed, recognizing it as a minor earthquake and promptly falling back asleep. In school, we were trained on the proper way to respond to a strong earthquake (things like standing in the doorway is one of the safest places to be) but we never had to use that knowledge.

So this is why I didn't think anything out of the normal had happened. I went ahead and showered, and then logged onto my computer to read my dad's email.

What I read next both reassured me and worried me:
"Just had the worst earthquake I've ever experienced here.  Our whole building was rattling and it went on much longer than normal for 2-3 minutes."

Clearly a stronger than usual earthquake (most we only feel for a few seconds) but the fact that 1) my dad was assuring us that they were fine and 2) had access to email made me feel better. However, he did mention:
"The Japanese TV is broadcasting tsunami warnings and saying the quake was centered way up in the Northeast.  If it was that far away and felt this bad, it must have been awful in Hokkaido."

Zama is located inland and away from water, so I wasn't worried about the tsunamis impacting them but it was an indication of how bad things were in Japan.

However, I still didn't have a clear magnitude of the impact of the earthquake since turning on the TV is not a part of my usual morning routine. I was in a hurry to get into work so my only thought was to call my parents and hear first hand how they were doing. My parents had just switched over to a phone service in the fall that eliminates the need to dial an international number. Calling them now is just dialing a local MA number (they got to pick the area code), which is something that I think worked in my favor since news reports were reporting that cell phone network was down and lines were understandbly jammed with family members trying to contact loved ones in Japan. After three tries, I actually got through to my parents, was able to hear about their experiences with the earthquake and really feel that they were fine and would continue to be fine in terms of how safe their apartment was (it's on the third floor of a high rise building) and access to any supplies.

It was only after I talked to them that I saw the headlines on sites like and CNN, and even more disturbingly, the video footage of the tsunamis. If I had seen all of that first rather than hearing about the earthquake first from my parents, it would've been a decidedly different (and much less calm) morning.

I was also relieved when I checked out the Stars & Stripes (the military newspaper that covers all our service areas) and saw this headline.

As I explained to everyone that reached out to me on Friday (feeling truly blessed and touched by all the friends, family and coworkers that thought about me and Amy), there is no better place for my parents to be than on a millitary installation during a crisis like this. Everything they need is within walking distance, they have ample supplies (Amy pointed out that my mom always stockpiles non-perishable food like she's feeding a family of twelve, due to her love of coupons) and basic necessities. Plus, I have faith that the Army would start evacuating servicemembers, civilians like my parents and families if they were in danger.

Also, it's times like these that social networking tools like Facebook came in handy. I was able to learn right away from friends who live in Japan that they were fine and their families were fine.

However, watching all this news coverage this weekend has been surreal. I just have such a hard time picturing the Japan of my memories as the disaster zone I see on TV. And my heart goes out to the Japanese people who are still dealing with things like aftershocks, nuclear plant meltdowns, and access to supplies, not to mention the rescue teams who are still searching survivors.

And I'm still praying for my parents' continued safety in this situation. A little part of me is still in disbelief that they're living in a disaster site. I don't know when life will return to "normal" for them but all in all, so thankful that they are all right!

Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers, and if you can afford it, consider making a donation to the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts.


Jen said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear your family is safe.

bcallegra said...

Thanks Jen. My family was extremely lucky!