I am utterly exhausted so pardon my writing abilities at the moment. It’s 10:45 on Tuesday night here in Tome-shi, Japan. So much has happened in the past few days that I don’t really know where to begin. The most vivid thing in my mind are the images of the devastation in Kesennuma. About 2,000 people in Kesennuma were killed (1200 missing, 800+ bodies found). Around 9:30am this morning, we drove from Sendai with some German missionaries to a tiny Baptist church and made waffles for folks there, and food and clothes were distributed. I randomly ran into my former roommate, Eiko, from Nagoya which I wasn’t expecting at all. A group from Food for the Hungry was at the church as well. It was wonderful to do something so small for those people and they were deeply grateful and very happy. The pastor of the church drove around the neighborhood and announced with a loudspeaker that there was free food and clothes. Slowly but surely, tons of people came our way within minutes. A lot of the people who came were older folks, probably in their 70’s and 80’s. I was glad that we talked with one friendly, smiling lady. This sweet lady mentioned she’d walked to the the church from an evacuation shelter and when I asked her long it took her to get to the church she replied that it took her an hour! Also, she mentioned there is not enough food for the people there – they are only getting cup ramen and a rice ball with no toppings (not even seaweed wrapping) twice a day. I was also incredibly shocked that if you drive about two minutes away from the devastated area everything looks completely normal! You could never imagine that anything was out of the ordinary…that really stunned me.
Around 5pm today, after we finished the waffle-making, we unloaded the 4-ton truck full of supplies and then went for a walk to the coastline while it was still light out. It was about a 3-minute walk until you saw the giant mountain of crushed cars, the debris, rubble, and destruction; the devastation is far, far beyond words. You can’t imagine how many videos I’ve watched of the devastation in Japan, but seeing it with my own two eyes was incredible, just left me speechless. I wandered around for a while, and then a team member came with a car and drove us around for about 30 minutes. I was surprised we could drive around the disaster area as freely as we did. We saw a few others doing the same things and I felt guilty with my camera, like a terrible tourist/ spectator. We took tons of photos and some video footage to show friends back home.
We spent the night with friends in Sendai last evening, and the damage to their house was incredible. Their house actually shifted 20 centimeters away from their parking lot and the whole house is now crooked with a definite slant you can feel when you enter the house. In fact, their neighbors can no longer live in their homes because of the intense damage to their homes. Our friends described in great detail why their house stands and their neighbors’ homes were rendered too dangerous to live in. They have a newer type of foundation that is all concrete at the sides and the bottom; they even drew us pictures to show the type of foundation that they had which saved their house. They told us they didn’t have water for about a week. I wondered how I’d feel if I couldn’t shower or drink water or wash clothes for a whole week…not to mention they had no heat and it was freezing! During the night we had a few tremors. We just felt two in the past thirty minutes, but to be honest, I hardly notice them.
It is amazing to think that in most of Japan, like goes on as if nothing happened. Of course, people are shaken up, particularly Tokyo/Chiba folks who went through a lot of trauma after the earthquake, but for the most part, things don’t seem any different overall. But as I saw those houses and apartment complexes that were completely destroyed, I wondered where those people are now. How do you rebuild your life when everything is gone? How do you start afresh when your home is gone, your money, your ID, everything is gone?!
I found some photo albums in the rubble and wondered who those people are. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so horrible before as that disaster area. I keep wondering how horrible it must have been for those people to die in such a way. I saw a parking lot of cars filled with mud and dirt and wondered if the owners will ever return for their cars. I am so exhausted…it’s time for a bath and then bed.