Remembering March 11

Several years ago, in a drunken conversation with a friend who wanted to know why Tokyo had such a pull on me, I told her that I had, for years, felt that I was meant to be here for the "Big One" — that whether I lived or died, the quake that is meant to destroy Tokyo is something I needed to see through. I can't explain why I felt that way. Or why I still feel it.

A year ago today, though, part of that fatalistic sense of destiny evaporated.

At 2:46pm on March 11, 2011, when the building I was working in began to shudder, I felt the kind of fear that causes a person to lose all sense of reality. The thoughts rushing through my mind were a mix of disbelief, terror, and wonder. Was this what I had been waiting for all these years? Was everything about to crumble around me? As I ran down the fire escape onto the street, I had truly bizarre flashes of people on similar stairs in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 — that event being such a part of global consciousness. Was this building about to fall down upon me?

Yet, as shit-scared as I was, I can say now, that I lost my fear of earthquakes that day. I realized that if I am to be anywhere in the world during a quake of that magnitude, or larger, then inside a modern building in Tokyo is where I want to be. The quake-proofing works. Next time a quake hits I won't run. That is, not until the tsunami alarms sound.

For, while I lost one fear a year ago, I gained another. Nothing now scares me more than a tsunami.

I have seen first-hand the destruction wrought by the wave that day, and I can't shake those images from my mind. Even now as I walk through Tokyo I often stop to think, "How far am I from Tokyo Bay?"

The "Big One" will come to Tokyo, and I will probably be here. But it doesn't scare me as much anymore — as long as I can get to high ground soon after.

Today my thoughts are with all the people swallowed up by the March 11 tsunami, and my heart goes out to the survivors left behind.

No comments: