3/12/2011

Earthquake!

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your concerned emails and phone calls. We are okay! Yesterday afternoon an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit a region of Japan, just 3 hours north of us by train. I’ve heard reports that it was the largest earthquake in Japanese history, and the fifth largest recorded earthquake in the world!

I was in a subway tunnel on my way to the dentist when it happened. The train immediately slammed on its brakes throwing me since I was standing. I thought someone was on the track, but then the announcement came…earthquake! We all experienced the jolting of the quake and realized it was big! After about 45 minutes, the train finally inched its way to the nearest subway stop to let everybody out. As soon as I got above ground, another big quake came and those who already weren’t on the street came running from the buildings. I was so amazed by the pandemonium on the streets that I almost forgot to look up and make sure nothing was going to fall on me. One group was herding people away from a particularly old building with lots of glass. They were afraid windows would pop out onto the street.

Since I was already in the location of the dentist, I walked over to the office where I met a very shaken up group. I’m in the middle of root canal treatment, but the dentist said my tooth should be okay and no work would be done that day. He may end up drilling a hole into the wrong tooth! So I started the walk home. Subways were not running. Cell phones were shut down due to the high volume. I walked past long lines to land line phone booths and buses. People crowded in the dividers in the biggest roads. Everyone outside.

Fortunately, I was only an hour walk from home. When I got there and used the building intercom to call my apartment, no one answered. I was very confused and started talking with the crowd of people gathered in the lobby. No one had seen my family. I went to the karate studio, where I knew my kids were scheduled to be but they weren’t there. So I went back to the apartment building to begin the long climb to the 28th floor via stairs. Elevators were shut down. Right there at the foot of the stairs I saw a written note from Abi (smart woman!) saying they were at Eastin’s school, which was acting as an emergency shelter.

I was happily reunited with my family, and found out their experiences. Abi was coming back home and had just pushed the elevator button when the quake hit. The power to the elevators immediately shut off (I haven’t heard if anyone got stuck in any of them), and Abi ran outside. The building swayed back and forth with a roar like lots of huge rocks scraping against each other. The roof tiles were popping off the old buildings next to her and landing in the street. It was nearly impossible to walk as the ground surged under her like a boat in a storm.

Abi’s parents (visiting from Jackson, MS) and 2 of the kids (Eastin was at karate) were up in our 28th floor apartment. When the earthquake started, Aidan reassured his grandparents that he had already been in lots of earthquakes and they weren’t a big deal. As the quake grew in grew in strength and the building swayed so much that it was impossible to stand, glasses were falling and smashing in the kitchen, all of the CDs poured out all over the floor, a large mirror felt to the ground and smashed, Aidan said, “I don’t like this one!” They evacuated to the central hallway and eventually down the 28 flights of stairs, meeting Abi halfway up. They hung around outside for a bit, helped some kids reunite with mothers, etc, and eventually made their way to the kindergarten grounds where cushions to sit on, blankets (it was cold and many didn’t have jackets), and safety hats were being handed out. When Abi went to pick up Eastin from his karate class, she found a happy kid whose sensei had just kept right on with class in spite of the quake! Leave it to the Japanese martial artists to train in all circumstances!

It was our 11th wedding anniversary when all this happened and just as I was beginning (selfishly!) to get a little discouraged at the thought of canceling the wonderful night I had planned, I got an email from one of Grace City Church’s staff, Seima Aoyagi. Phone service was still down but iPhones could send and receive email. He, his wife, and oldest two children were stranded at a train station in the western part of Tokyo. Abi and I got in the Grace City van to “rescue” them. Unfortunately 3 hours later when we had moved only a few miles, we realized it was an impossible plan. There were just too many cars on the road, the only form of transportation available besides walking. We did find out later that the trains started up again and they were able to get home past midnight. It was an anniversary to remember!

I felt three more aftershocks while writing this email! Pray for those at the epicenter where many died or were hurt.

Roger