12 March, 2013

Personal memories of the period after the 2011 disaster: in photos

Two years ago when disaster struck Honshu's north eastern coast, we were hundreds of kilometres from the main disaster zone and therefore didn't suffer any significant immediate damage from the earthquake or the tsunami. Even though we were not involved directly in post-disaster relief work, the event still impacted us. We have our own story, as does everyone from those days.

Some missionaries evacuated—overseas or just further south away from the nuclear power plant; some were involved in relief efforts, either directly, or in administration support; some did PR work, or raised support; some were in leadership and had to make hard decisions about advising others. 

All missionaries were dealing with rampant press accounts of the radioactive situation. All were dealing with a huge number of emails and phone calls from family and friends home-side who wanted reassurance of our safety. All were hurting for Japan. Everyone had to make their own decisions on how to face the situation. 

All of us have our own stories.

Our family didn't evacuate. We stayed very local (petrol was hard to buy and the trains were irregular for a while). But we are not without memories of that time. It wasn't a normal period of time and we wondered when things would get back to normal. School shut down. Friends evacuated. Usual events were cancelled. For a while we had surprises and new things to deal with every day, even down here in Tokyo. I'm not suggesting we suffered badly. What we went through was nothing at all compared to the chaos that abounded in the disaster zone. 

Here are some photos of our memories:
Empty shelves for days afterwards.
Baking more of our own bread than we usually do (we usually supplement with shop-bought bread, but that wasn't possible for a while after the earthquake).
The elation at the first time I was able to buy toilet paper!
A bring-and-share lunch with CAJ staff families: those who were still around.
One of our evacuation bags that remained packed for several weeks after the March 11 disaster.

Electricity saving meant many escalators throughout the city were turned off for several weeks. This one is at our local train station.
Right through the summer there was evidence of electricity saving in shops with fewer lights on. It served the double purpose of creating an atmosphere of "mourning".
The "disaster" magazine I had a very large part in getting out, and which consumed me for weeks after the earthquake, sold thousands of copies. It took us nearly a week to package them all up to post out.
Colleagues came to our house one afternoon and we prepared dinner for some workers at the relief agency CRASH, which operated at the time out of our suburb. It was actually good to be doing something helpful, and in community. At times after the earthquake we felt isolated with most normal "social" activities on hold. Getting together with others was such an encouragement.
Impromptu home schooling as CAJ shut down for a few weeks.
Dreaming about and planning for camping in the summer for the first time helped me through this difficult time.

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