5 Year Memorial Event after 3.11

Standing to face the ocean from where the tsunami came, waiting for the sirens
to mark the exact time of the tsunami at 2:46 pm
It was cold but sunny, a stark contrast to the dark snowy day five years before, when the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster struck on March 11, 2011. I gathered with 100 or so people on the second floor of the Minato Sogo Welfare Center for a memorial event remembering the events of 3.11 put on by Ishinomaki Christian Center in cooperation with other organizations.

The preparation was falling apart in many ways. There was a misunderstanding on when it was okay to enter the building, and set-up fell drastically behind schedule. Parking was inadequate, and people were having trouble figuring our where to leave their cars. The internet was not working right, and video hook-up with three other churches only worked for 10 minutes. The siren which was supposed to sound at 2:46 pm, the exact hour of the earthquake, had system trouble and failed to sound. Despite all this, the event was full of meaning.

The ceremony took place near the water in an area badly hurt by the tsunami, where I had strong memories from my first visit. I walked around the area alone, remembering the landscape covered in mud, cars, debris from homes, and the nearby shelter which was so dark and cold.

Below I will recount what I caught from one of the testimonies in the ceremony, but there are probably inaccuracies:

“I was in my shop when the earthquake struck. I knew about the danger from a tsunami and so I raced to my car to head up into the mountains. Unfortunately there were too many cars, and we got stuck in a traffic jam...on the road right in front of this building. No one was moving, and then the wave hit. My car was dragged I don’t know how far by the strength of the current. When it stopped moving, I pushed the button to open my window, and I don’t know why, but it worked! As the cold water rushed all over my and into the car, I pulled myself out the window. I had to go up 6 meters through the water before my head finally broke the surface. I swam with all my strength to a nearby tree and did what I could to hold on. Finally, the wave subsided, and I was able to make it to a nearby building before the next wave came. Soaking wet and freezing cold, I stripped off all my sopping-wet clothes, yes ALL of them, and wrapped myself in a window curtain I found. I didn’t know why I did it at the time, but I was able to stay warm and dry...and somehow I was able to stay alive.

Once the water subsided, I began my journey back home. Through the dark, for 8 hours, I pushed on. I made it home and found my wife, two children, and 96-year-old mother unharmed. We needed water, and we needed food. We went to a nearby shelter to ask for food but were turned away, as the shelter did not even have enough for those in the shelter. We found a group of people outside the shelter and lived on okayu (rice porridge) and food arrived in our neighborhood many days later.

Everything was broken. I returned home but was only able to find one tool. I used that tool to start fixing things. I fixed someone's car and got it working again. People continually brought me things to fix. I noticed how people outside shelters were greedy and didn't want to wait, but people in the shelters who lost everything were used to waiting. More than ever, I realized how people need each other. No one is alone. We need to watch out for each other. That’s all. Thank you for listening.”
(March 11, 2016. Minato Sougou Fukushi Kaikan)