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Friday, March 11, 2011

The March 11th Earthquake: 5th Largest Ever Recorded


2:35pm: I had just arrived home from a little afternoon trip out with some of the other wives. The rest of the women went to base while I chose to head back home for lunch. I contemplated going exploring, adventuring into my uncharted territories, because the weather was gorgeous! It felt like the most perfect day, blue skies, bright sun, and flip-flops, but I had a strong urge to get home.
2:43pm: Once I settle in at home I grabbed my laptop and called up a sweet friend of mine. It was getting pretty late back in Washington but I was hoping I could catch her before she fell asleep so we could chat while I made lunch.
2:46pm: The power went out, I thought I tripped the breaker. Disappointed in our loss of conversation I ran over to the breaker box to flip the switch, it wasn’t flipped down. I flipped it up and down anyways, nothing happened. Before I could even start thinking as to what had happened the floor began to shift, “It’s just a little quake, like the one a month ago, it will stop soon…” The walls began to creak around me, our possessions on the shelves were starting to shake as the curtains swayed back and forth. I stood there in disbelief, “no this isn’t happening, what do I do?! NO! STOP! This isn’t happening!” I stepped into my bedroom door frame and held the sides for balance, “Jesus, what do I do?! God, I pray this isn’t it, I pray this isn’t the end. Tell me what to do Lord!” My mind was running off into a hundred and one directions, “where do I go?!” I stumbled back out into the kitchen, looked at the table and was reminded of crawling under a desk while in a school… but that table did not give me any comfort. The quake continued to gather speed and force, I made my way over to stand under the beam, “so I huddle down on the ground?! Lord, what do I do?! Why is my husband not here?!” I saw the wide open field outside where the school kids participate in gym, “God, that’s where I need to be but is it too late for me to get outside?! It’s not stopping! Chris told me these are structurally safe buildings, but it’s going to come crashing down on me! Is it safer to be under a beam, table, in a doorway when the top 13 floors come crashing down rather than being in a stairwell or outside hallway, or is it worth the risk to get out of dodge?! Lord, WHAT DO I DO?!!” I was hyperventilating, but too distracted and busy with my conflicting thoughts to even think of crying. I finally made a decisive decision and ran to the door, threw on my flip-flops and booked it down the stairwell and out of the building. The ground was still moving under my feet, but I found a pinch of comfort seeing other woman running outside with the same look of panic as I had.
After what seemed like hours the quake stopped. The Japanese men who work at the front desk were running around frantically moving buses, checking elevators, and looking at the tops of the buildings from down below. They told us it was safe to re-enter the building but to leave the door open. I saw Kelli when I was outside and decided to go grab my cell and come back down to hangout with her. As we were sitting in her apartment we felt the first aftershock, which was another large earthquake. I couldn’t handle being indoors any longer, after this quake we decided to get outside and out of dodge. I ran back up to my place, put on tennis shoes and packed my backpack with my camera, external hard drive, cash, and passport.
As we were walking down past the school we saw the mass exodus of students with their parents.
People where everywhere outside, some walking aimlessly in a trance, while other spoke to friends with much character and emotion in their voice and hand gestures. No one knew what to do or think. We spoke to a Japanese woman who has lived in the area her entire life and she said that this was the worst earthquake she has ever felt. The sirens and alarms kept sounding followed by a Japanese explanation. The entire situation felt eerie and surreal.
It felt good to get out and walk. Neither of us still hadn’t connect with our husbands due to cell service being down, “Lord I pray he didn’t even feel it.” Chris was on the ship so I hoped he was oblivious to what was happening, I didn’t want him to worry about me.
We walked back to the apartment to see if we could learn any news, if anyone had heard about the base, Tokyo, tsunamis, any type of information we could get our hands on. There were many numbers being thrown around as to how large the quake was and to how big the tsunamis were. There was an aid car in the complex, apparently a man had a seizure after the earthquake, I was told he’d be alright. With the Lord’s intervention I was able to get through to my husband’s voicemail to tell him what I knew: I’m okay, the power is out, the trains have stopped, cell phones are not working, that I loved him and was praying for him. I later (much, much later) learned that this was the blessing Chris needed.
The ground continued to tremble, between aftershocks and my paranoia, it felt like the ground was consistently moving. I went back up into my apartment and cooked up some carrots and noodles on our gas stove top by book light.
I also tried to stay distracted by attempting to lose myself with some light reading in a book I bought out of a book order while student teaching. I still couldn’t connect to Chris.
After awhile Kelli came and invited me down to her apartment, her husband was able to make it home, we also went up to the 7th floor and grabbed our friend Elise’s husband who had their baby boy while she and their toddler where stuck downtown.
(the sky looked like something out of a movie… The eerie calm before the storm type of feeling.)
Mikaela and Ashley showed up while I was down at Josh and Kelli’s, this brought comfort because I hadn’t seen them since right before the quake. Ashley’s husband made it home too but Mikaela’s husband was still at work with mine, and like me she still hadn’t spoke to her husband.
I went back to my apartment when Ash and Mikaela headed back up to Ashley’s apartment (next door to ours) to fill up any pots or bowls I had with water. No one above the second floor at this point had water in their pipes. Mikaela came over and took me to Ashley and Brandon’s.
The hardest thing for me to deal with was knowing I was okay but not being able to tell anyone. Brandon so kindly let me try to call family but the phone wasn’t working. I did mange to access Facebook from his phone to post that we were okay and to my surprise I saw my husband had already gotten some word out! Praise God he had access to get to it sooner than myself.
On base the soldiers said that a large tsunami was going to hit our bay between 9:30pm and 10. This didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us but at 9:30 Ashley, Mikaela, and I walked up to the 15th floor to look out across the city. We weren’t really expecting to see a tsunami but were curious as to how far the power outage went. Elise and Ben came up to the top to meet us, thank God Elise was able to make it home after being trapped downtown by herself all day. We laughed about the day together, how none of us know what was going on, how Elise at one point told her two-year-old, “Lucy, I’m afraid something really bad is going to happen,” who replied with, “something scary mommy?” Elise and I were on the same thought line with this being ‘it.’ It was easy to laugh about the quake and tsunami because we had been living in a state of terror for the last seven hours, but also because we were still oblivious as to what had happened. We could see from the top of our tower that Tokyo was still light up and standing, it wasn’t engulfed with flames or covered with water, which brought some comfort.
Eight hours after the quake I heard my husband’s voice! He was going to have to stay late but was hoping to get home this evening and have Clark in tow. I fell asleep for a bit on Brandon and Ashley’s couch. They had guests land around 10pm in the one airport not closed in Tokyo and eventually needed to head to bed so that they could meet them in the morning when the trains were hopefully running.
Mikaela and I moved over to my cold apartment. We ran the stove top for a bit to gather some heat before turning it off and crawling into bed. We talked till I fell asleep again, I didn’t imagine I’d sleep at all that evening but after having a countless number of emotions running nonstop for hours, I was beat. The power came on around 1:30am! We got up and turned off lights and flushed toilets, then crawled back into bed. Around 2:30am Chris showed up and told Mikaela that Clark was outside with the taxi. Chris walked her down and then came back up and jumped on me, holding me so tight for the longest time. We didn’t speak, just held each other.
I needed to know what was going on in the world. We hopped online and Skype, Facebook, g-mail, blew up with people sending their love and prayers. I called my mom and dad and some other friends and family. It was good to hear everyone’s voice. Chris and I began to surf through BBC news. I was in complete shock watching the destruction that had occurred uncomfortably close to us, just 250 miles North. I cannot describe to you what it was like to watch and to read about what had happened while we were cut off from the world because of the quake. I felt very fortunate to be able to end the worst day of my life while sitting with my husband, but I hated what we learned about northern Japan, “Lord, I pray that you may somehow bring comfort to friends and family of the deceased and lost, I pray that the estimated destruction is not as high as estimated. God watch over those that are still alive but lost in the rubble in the cold and dark tonight.”
Chris went off to bed because he still had to go to work in the morning. I hadn’t had much for food all day so I cooked up some eggs and continued to watch and read the news. I broke, I became a sobbing mess on our couch crying out to Jesus for the people we have grown so fond of over the last two months. I couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t stand to read another statistic or see anymore vehicles being pushed around like matchbox cars, I had to try to go to bed. After I calmed myself down I crawled in bed up next to my husband, this made me begin crying again, “Lord, thank you. Thank you God that it is possible for me to cuddle with my husband after such a day of destruction, I am not worthy of this and do not deserve to have such a blessing. I do not take it for granted that we are safe and that he made it back to me tonight, thank you Lord. Please protect this nation over night.”

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