Friday, April 22, 2011

Earthquake Experience: Part 2

Last week I began writing about the March 11th earthquake.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

Philip told me that the shaking had been strong at his office and that he realized how serious it was when his Japanese co-workers demonstrated intense fear.  The office had been evacuated to a middle school, but the ironic thing was that the team had to walk through alley ways between shaking buildings to get to "safety."  He heard that the trains would likely be shut down and that he might need to walk home.  We discussed where I had gone during the quake and decided it had been a good choice, one I would make again if we had another major tremor.  We exchanged "I love yous" as we always do when we say goodbye on the phone, but with the aftershocks, I knew I wouldn't really rest easy until he got home.  I updated Facebook and emailed our families to let them know that we were both ok, in case they happened to be up and watching the news.

For the rest of the day, I kept Matthias within arm's reach at all times, usually strapped to me in his beloved Baby Bjorn.  I removed all hard items from the tops of shelves and furniture and made sure all cabinets were closed.  It's strange how benign-looking, beloved items can become dangerous in an emergency.  As I read and watched the news, I began to realize how ill-prepared we had been had the earthquake had been worse in Tokyo.  I pulled out the earthquake information we had received from our relocation consultants and gathered supplies that we had on hand, just in case Matthias and I needed to make a quick exit.  I filled a bag with our backup disposable diapers and wipes, some non-perishable food, our important paperwork, blankets and clothes for M, and Nalgene bottles filled with water.  I filled the remainder of our water bottles and sat them in different places around the apartment.  I hoped that those affected by the quake and tsunami had been better prepared than we had been, that they had food and supplies for their babies.  I kept thinking of and praying for the families that had been separated and held Matthias even closer.  I wanted to talk to someone, but didn't want to wake up our families in the middle of the night.

We continued to have aftershocks, and each time, I wondered if they would get worse, whether I should go to our "safe spot," but I stayed calm.  It is amazing how being a mom brings greater cause for anxiety on one hand, but more reasons to stay calm on the other.  I tried to do mundane tasks like laundry and cleaning to stay busy as I waited to hear again from Philip.  I was ravenously hungry, as I always seem to be after a stressful event.

Later in the evening, I received a text from Philip telling me he was walking home 31 km (over 19 miles) from Kamiooka.  Later I was able to get a call through to him and found out he was with three of his co-workers, including Tanaka-san, his kind Japanese friend.  I was glad to know he was with someone who spoke Japanese and knew his way around.  Philip said that traffic was at a standstill and that the trains were suspended.  Thousands, or more likely millions, of people were making their way home on foot.  He told me they had tried to buy bikes, but there were none to be had.  He continued to text me to tell me his progress and I would find each location on the map.  I kept updating Facebook with news from Philip and with details about the quake and tsunami as I learned them.  Dozens of friends and family members wrote, checked on us, and prayed for Philip's safe return.  Finally it was late enough to call home, and I talked with my relieved mom and mom-in-law.  Unfortunately, my mom found out about the quake (via a phone call from a friend) before she heard from me, but quickly found out that I was ok.  My mom-in-law got my message before she heard the news.  My dear friend and college roommate called and wonderfully distracted me for the remainder of the time until Philip got home.

Philip got home after midnight, and I was so happy to see him!  He was exhausted and sore, but completely safe and I was very thankful.  He had walked over 17 miles in his dress clothes and shoes before getting on one of the few trains back in service.  He jokes now that he should do a testimonial commercial for his Bruno Magli shoes, fancy ones we snagged for a bargain at Nordstrom Rack back in VA.  After lots of hugs, a little stress eating, sharing about our days, and updating loved ones, we slipped into bed for a restless night's sleep.

To be continued...


  1. Oh my goodness! That must have been so scary...and I can't believe your husband walked so far. I'm glad you guys are all ok. I just found your blog...and I'm your newest follower! :)

  2. Oh my - what a story you have to tell. Thank you so much for sharing - I can't even imagine what the must have been like for you and your fam!!