Editor’s note: Christine Eige is an ELCA teaching missionary in Japan.
Originally posted March 11, 2011, at Musings of a Dawn Treader. Republished with permission of the author.
Yesterday afternoon the movers came to pick up my boxes and suitcases for my move to Kumamoto.
I was so impressed by the efficiency and warm customer service that I saw yet again in Japan. Cindy, my co-worker, helped with translating and keeping us organized, so we quickly finished.
Then, a group of us decided to visit a local restaurant. We were about a block away from home when the earthquake started at 2:46 p.m.
The four of us stopped as residents nearby left their homes to stand away from possible falling structures. The power lines above us shook, so we backed away from the electric pole next to us.
The shaking continued for about two minutes while we huddled together in groups.
People commented on how strong the earthquake felt and how they’d never felt anything quite like it. Actually, Japan has never had an earthquake this strong in recorded history.
As the shaking slowed down, the aftershocks continued off and on, and it was like we had just left a ship and couldn’t quite get our land legs back.
We parted from neighbors with comments of “take care” and continued to the restaurant.
While we were there, rather large aftershocks continued, so everyone sought shelter under the tables.
The restaurants could only sell limited items on the menu since it wasn’t safe to use the gas so soon after a big earthquake. Most people in the restaurant seemed relieved to have friends or family nearby and didn’t care.
At this point we had no idea about the tsunami or the magnitude of destruction that it left in its path. Meanwhile, the trains all over Tokyo stopped running so that thorough inspections could be done to ensure everyone’s safety.
The trains, subways and bullet trains throughout the eastern side of Honshu remained shut down for the remainder of the day, leaving millions of people stranded at work or school overnight.
It wasn’t until I returned home and turned on the news that I started to understand the damage that the earthquake and tsunami had done.
Many people died, and that number continues to grow. Many were injured, lost their homes, or were without power on a cold night. It’s hard to turn away from the images on the news, even though about the only Japanese word that I can understand in the reports is じしん (“jishin,” meaning earthquake).
Because the movers had taken away almost everything, I didn’t have cooking supplies or eating utensils, let alone food in the refrigerator. We ventured out again to a nearby grocery store only to find the lights off and the doors closed.
The clerk at the 7-Eleven next door told us that the merchandise had fallen off the shelves during the earthquake, so the grocery store was forced to close. The shelves at 7-Eleven were pretty bare, but we managed to stock up on some water and cups of noodles.
Throughout the night the tremors continued off and on.
I feel guilty even mentioning my lack of sleep when I think about all the people who are struggling with much bigger problems right now. Especially for those communities closest to the tsunami, the challenges are just beginning.
While some people may be able to return to their normal lives, they face the loss of friends and family, homes and all their possessions.
My heart and prayers go out to the people of Japan right now who are in the midst of this turmoil and tragedy.
Please pray for them, not only today but in the weeks and months ahead as they try to rebuild their lives.
Find a link to Christine Eige’s blog Musings of a Dawn Treader at Lutheran Blogs.