By now you've probably heard about the devastation in Japan. On Friday afternoon (local time) a 8.9-magnitude earthquake occurred just off the coast near Sendai. It was followed by a tsunami with waves up to 33 feet high. Power that hadn't been knocked out was quickly shut down to over 4 million customers because nuclear reactors needed to be shut down for safety. Thousands who live near one that was having a radiation leak are being given iodine tablets and being forced to evacuate. And if that wasn't enough, the island was hit by 80+ aftershocks in the hours that followed all ranking at least 5.0 on the Richter Scale - all enough to cause even more damage.
When I first saw the footage, it was of the tsunami that had just hit. I had to double check that I wasn't on some channel that was playing a movie. It looked like an overhead shot of a model special effects teams were pouring water over. I was completely awestruck... And as the day went on here, things kept piling up there. If you escaped injury or damage to the things around you in the first event, something else that could take things down soon followed.
An acquaintance of mine was watching a streaming news feed from NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corp) on his laptop and he translated for me - official word there was that these aftershocks (which all seem to be earthquakes of merit in their own right) might continue for a week and maybe up to a month. He'd talked to people he knew in a factory there. They were trapped at work because the trains couldn't run and the roads were impassable. They tried to sleep in the office but every time they fell asleep, another aftershock would shake them awake again.
The whole thing is unbelievable but I have to keep reminding myself that it is real. I'm relieved that no one I know there currently was badly hurt and its my understanding that Baby T (from a few posts ago) and his parents had already moved back to the US.
It's difficult to know what we can do to help a situation like this. And I think its important to note that it may be unlikely to see a public outpouring of grief from those affected. In Japanese culture Tataemae is your public face - which you use to not upset anyone around you, to keep the harmony of the group. Honne is your private face or true feelings. Even after devastation like this, you may not see a photo of someone completely breaking down in front of the ruins of their home. But know that they still are hurting. And if you do see a photo of someone breaking down, know how upset they must be to share that. The photos of the damage and the people walking through it give us an opportunity to imagine how we'd feel in their shoes.
The Big Picture has a powerful collection of photos. And the website Good is amassing a collection of ways you can help.