As I walked to work this morning, the sky was painted a perfect blue. The snow capped Tateyama mountains stood proud, sparkling in the background oblivious to everything else. “Deceiving,” I thought.
I continued to walk, struggling against myself to force all the horrific images that engulfed me in the last 72 hours. I sighed in relief. Finally, my mind was completely blank, an empty vortex, not a single thought cartwheeling. Finally.
I kept slowly walking. My school was now a few seconds away. I turned left and was paralyzed, rooted to the ground, completely bewildered. Like a ferocious avalanche, the terrifying reality that had enveloped Japan and shocked the world was glaring at me.
The reality I was so desperately trying to forget stood before me. There gently swaying in the wind, on what would have been a stunning spring day, was the Japanese flag, red, white and alone, at half mast.
Deep sadness swept over me again, washing away everything, leaving me utterly helpless.
4:00am on Saturday, March 12, 2011, the earth shook again. I quickly grabbed a pillow covered my frightened face and pleaded with God, repeatedly begging, as tears meandered down my eyes, “I don’t want to die.”
I have not been able to sleep since. Every gentle breeze feels like a violent shake, every footstep sounds like a heavy thump crushing the feeble earth, my own heart beat terrifies me- too loud, echoing like a million angry gunshots. I can’t sleep. I am afraid I will become of those who had innocently lost their lives. I am completely consumed by paranoia.
I am embarrassed by how I feel because I am alive; my region, Toyama, barely affected by the tragedy, feeling only a few slight trembles and some miles away, thousands dead. But, I cannot wipe away the images of thousands of homes being instantly swallowed by the vicious wave. I cannot erase the sights of hundreds of towering buildings continuously shaking. I cannot delete the pictures of people shivering in the cold, now homeless. I cannot stifle the thoughts of people frantically searching for their families in rubble. I cannot not think about my kouchou sensei (principal), who recently died in the Christchurch earthquake, being buried today.
When the earth doesn’t shake, I shake. Everyone asks, “How are you?”. I robotically reply, “I’m okay.” It’s a lie, a facade, not to show vulnerability. March 11th, 2011 is a day forever etched in my mind, painfully branded in my heart, deeply buried into my consciousness.
Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, has called this the worst tragedy Japan has faced since the Second World War. As each minute that passes, more lifeless bodies are discovered, more families are eternally separated, more children are made orphans, more dreams are shattered into a million tiny pieces, irreparable.
I feel hopeless. An eeriness lingers, it stains the air. It devours me. I am Trinidadian but Japan is also my home. These are my countrymen dying, suffering, hurting.
As hopeless as I feel, as bleak as this time seems, as much as everything crumbles around me, the only thing that soothes my pain is the global solidarity displayed in these dark times. I am truly humbled by my family, friends and strangers dotted throughout the world who have been sending their love, kind thoughts and concerns for everyone scarred by this devastating catastrophe.
Japan has been plagued by terrible events laced in its history but it is a country built on unshaken resolve whose foundation lies in the stoic endurance of its people. Like the sun emerging from the darkest dawn, Japan will slowly rise and it will be okay. And, so will I.
How you can help:
1. Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, for information on how you can help, please contact the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago.
2. Everyone can donate by clicking on one of the following:
b. Global Giving: Japan Earthquake and Relief Fund
3. Those in Japan:
You can donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross. At Family Mart, go to the green kiosk that looks like an ATM:
a. Hit the 募金 (bokin) button. It has a heart with Angel Wings.
b. Hit the Japanese Red Cross button.
c. Choose the amount to donate.
d. Hit OK, print receipt.
e. Take receipt to cashier and pay there.
Along the way there will be several confirmation screens. Just hit the OK button.
For additional information, please refer to The Huffington Post- How to Help Japan: Earthquake Relief Options