I am not sure what else there is to say about this earthquake. Everyone can tell their story – as I suppose you want to hear mine. I was at home. Nothing remarkable about it except that the shaking lasted too long and felt too hard. I ran for my kids, who were at school, luckily only a few blocks from home. The kids, when I found them, were under tables in their classrooms. They were not traumatized and they were not affected for weeks on end – so we can tell now. The one effect was that they slept in my room on the floor for days afterward, and had we not left Tokyo already, would still be sleeping there.
It’s the leaving that is bothering me now, as I sit, writing, winging away to New York.
Right after the quake, and after I got the kids, we headed out to the park for a while. Finally, as it neared 5pm (the quake had been at 2:45pm), and the aftershocks lessened – at least their frequency did – we went home, saying goodbye to friends with whom we had shared the immediate terror and subsequent survival. We had one close friend who came over for dinner with her daughters. Her husband couldn’t get home from Nagoya, where he had been on business. She and my husband and I spent the evening on our iPhones, watching CNN and barely talking. She, darling that she is, kept apologizing for being rude, but it wasn’t rude; it was practical. We were coping the best that we could. The next day, she gave us brownies that she had made as a thank you for having her family with us. But what she doesn’t understand fully, is that her presence was a gift to our family. It lent a sense of normalcy to the oddest Friday night in history. All of us being Jews, we lit the candles to usher in the Sabbath with a heavy, yet grateful heart. The four children put money in our tzedakah box and felt lucky to be able to do it. All of that gave Marc and me an outlet for our feelings beyond each other. And she’s a thoughtful human being – hearing her point of view on the day and speculation of what would happen next was helpful for us. I will always thank her for being with us that first, awful night.
Mar c, to let you know, had a harder time than I did, even though I had the kids. His office is on the 25th floor of a new-ish building near the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and it really SWAYED with the quake. After he walked down the 25 flights, he then had to walk home about an hour. And he was grateful. We heard of people walking 8, 9, 10 hours to get home with the lack of available public transport or taxis. He was so happy to be home.
In the days that followed, there was an eerie sense of normal around the city. We went about our business as usual. Sure, a lot of things, including Bailey’s basketball, the kids’ Sunday school and other various city-events, were cancelled, but the sun shone, and it the weekend was beautiful. On Sunday, we met friends for a play in the park followed by a great lunch. It was wildly normal.
But we couldn’t ignore the news. Up north, the devastation was horrific. As you know, entire communities of people were wiped out. Families, businesses, livelihoods, lives – all gone from the map. The earth shifted on its axis. The shoreline shrunk.
In Tokyo, things were normal, yet not normal. There was an odd sense of quiet. People spoke softly. There were actually fewer people around. There were announcements to conserve energy. With the nuclear reactors, which provide a large percentage of Japanese electricity, out of commission, there was a serious lack of power expected. Blackouts were planned. I waited more than thirty minutes to put gas in my car and then spent $100 to fill up my small sedan. And people speculated.
It’s Tuesday, only four days after the big event, and my family and I have fled the country. To be fair, next week is the kids’ spring break from school and the school cancelled class for the rest of this week, so it seemed like the easy thing to do. But also, more nuclear reactors are on the verge of breakdown and it seems prudent to get out of its way. Then there’s the extended family to consider. They have been pressuring us and pressuring us to leave. The news that they are seeing overseas is a bit sensationalized, like all news tends to be. They see the images of Sendai, and don’t necessarily remember that in Tokyo, we’re over 100 miles from the hardest hit areas. Still, they pressure us and we feel badly putting ourselves in harm’s way when they are counting on us to stay safe.
So we left. We got out of Dodge. It does not feel 100% right to have done it. I have lovely friends who I’ve left behind. I have other friends who are going to other places, so I wouldn’t be with them anyway, but that doesn’t stop me from missing them. And I’ve left my home. Marc and I have made a home in Tokyo. I don’t mean just our house, though that’s a big part of it. We have made our house a home with pictures, art, and our stuff. The stuff that makes up a life. For us, that life is in Tokyo. It was hard to leave it. Logic says that we have a return ticket for two weeks from now, but my practical, disaster-minded, emotional brain wonders when we will actually get back on that plane. When will we get our life back?
I’m rambling a bit and I hope you’ll forgive me for it. It has been a very long four days, which followed a very long two weeks prior.
I’m sitting on this plane, Bailey on my left and Sydney to his left. One more to the left is my husband, Marc. We are together. We were able to leave together, which is a complete luxury, I am aware. There are many husbands left behind in Tokyo, and those, according to the people I know, were the hardest goodbyes. I am in a position to be extremely grateful for the gifts I have been given. All of this will reconcile in my head; it just might take a bit of time. But with my family around me now, time is a luxury in which I’m happily indulging.
Please go kiss your family right now.