Saturday, March 12, 2011


We can't thank everyone enough for the outpouring of love, prayers and concern for us and our host country. It has been a crazy few days - ones I will NEVER forget. For now, here is a little sampling of what we went through initially.

Around 2:47pm on Friday afternoon, Gavin and I were at home at the dining room table. I was on the computer and I noticed a little shaking and rattling of our buffet cabinets. This was somewhat normal though, as they shook a bit if a plane or helicopter flew overhead. But then the wine glasses starting clamoring together and the table started to shake. Really shake. I was actually very calm and thought, "OK - This is an earthquake. We need to get to our safe place (doorway between 2 cement walls)." We walked over and the shaking got consistently worse. It was a very strange feeling. I felt as if I was dizzy or motion sick - but knew it wasn't me shaking - everything was. Gavin was so confused so I tried to calmly explain to him what was happening. I said "This is an earthquake. The earth shakes because of these things underground that bump together (ok - I am not an expert on explaining these). It will stop soon." But it didn't stop. It kept going, and getting stronger, and going, and getting stronger. Things were falling off walls and shelves. I eventually got really scared because I swore it was going to keep going. So I grabbed Gavin and ran to our neighbors (I didn't want to be the only adult and I knew my friends were home). It lasted another 30-60 seconds and then was over. We were all in a semi-state of shock. We knew it was a big one (newest measure was that it was a 9.1) - and it must not have been too close - so wherever it was - it was going to be disastrous. Unfortunately, we were right.

Then came the aftershocks. Gavin and I felt safe enough to go back home, so we started to leave and noticed my neighbor's plants started shaking again. So we got back inside and got under the table (6.4). When that was over, I knew I needed to get to Evelyn. She gets on the bus at 2:50 - so I was hoping they were on their way home already since it was now 3:15. We drove to the East gate where we get the kids from the bus. While in the car, we had another biggie (7.1). That was also such a weird feeling to be in the car, stopped, but still moving! Today (Sunday) we have had over 275 aftershocks - a lot of them 6.0 and higher.

All the parents met at the bus stop, waiting for our kids to get to us. Finally, we came to a realization that there was no cell service - so the school would not be able to reach us. Luckily, there is still Wi-Fi all over Japan so I was able to check my email on my phone. We had received 4 emails from the school, all in Japanese. We found 2 children (1/2 Japanese) and asked them to translate. They said they thought it said there would be no bus and we have to pick up the children at the school. We double checked with one of the Japanese guards who confirmed this is what was written. We all jumped in the car and hurried to the school. What should have taken 8 minutes took over 30. But, in the midst of this disaster, people were calm. Everyone stopped at red lights and let pedestrians cross the streets. No one honked or yelled. It was organized chaos.

I was the first to get to the school and Gavin and I ran to the grounds to find Evelyn hysterically crying. The sensei said she had only been crying for about 5 minutes because she wanted me. I am grateful she had her friends there with her and that her teachers could speak English to calm her down. But, in honesty, that was the hardest part for me. Being away from my baby in such a disaster. But, I got to her, waited for all the other Yokota parents to get there, and then we got home safely. We continued to get aftershocks through the night and next day, and are still getting them now.

I emailed Patrick to tell him I had to go to Evie's school (since the phones weren't working) so when we got home he was finally able to call on the base phones. He warned me not to let the kids watch tv at all since everywhere was showing the news and tsunami, quake effects, etc. He said he watched one scene and turned it off. To this day - we have not seen much. I can't bear to witness it and think of what has happened to my host country.

Patrick got home around 5:30. I felt so much better once he was with us. He was with patients when it happened. They were in the exam room (a husband and wife) and Patrick said he felt like he was going to pass out. So he put his hand out to steady himself, and realized everything was shaking. The couple lived in California for a while so knew it was an earthquake immediately. Patrick said they pointed out the hanging skeleton in the room - that was dancing around. He says that it is something he will never forget because it was so surreal. They all went into his office under his big desk until it was safe.

We have been avoiding the tv so the kids won't accidentally see anything scary. They are scared enough having been through the shaking - let alone having to think about what could have happened to us and what did happen to thousands. Friends and family back in the states are glued to the tv - watching every development. I want you to know we are not in that affected area. There is no damage to our homes. No trees uprooted. No cracks in the ground. When I look outside now, the sun is shining, kids are playing and people are working. There is starting to be some minor panic about the nuclear plant (which is 150+ miles away). We are warned to expect aftershocks for up to a month. I don't know how schools will function - because they have to treat each aftershock as an emergency. Kids are scared. Gavin doesn't want to leave my side. When the table shakes (if we kick the leg or something) he crouches down and asks if it is another earthquake. He wants to learn all about them - but he also wants to move back to Ohio now. Gas stations off base have lines around the corners. Electricity is being systematically turned off to conserve energy throughout all of Japan.

I finally had a little breakdown last night of what has happened and how close we are to everything, without actually being in the middle of it. I am amazed at the volunteers at Yokota. The Red Cross had to turn people away because there were so many willing to help. 11 planes from Narita (the Tokyo airport) got diverted here and had to get processed. 2500 people successfully taken care of. Boy Scout troops cleaned empty apartments to prepare for the incoming airmen. Friends having sleep overs to help kids cope and let the parents work.

Personally, I still can't sleep well or eat. I am a nervous wreck. This was my first (and hopefully last) earthquake. So I am freaked. But I am grateful for skype and facebook as they have kept me very connected to family and friends. And also to information from the base. Patrick is on recall notice - so we are just waiting to hear when he can go and help.

I am heartbroken for Japan. I am sad for my kids that they had to experience this. But, as far as they know, it was kind of cool, and they didn't witness anything terrible. But they still knew the fear that everyone had in their eyes. As an adult, teacher or parent, it is almost impossible to hide behind what we know is happening. Please pray for the people of Japan. Pray for the Armed Forces to be able to help. Pray for the kids and people that went through this.

I will update again if I can. For now, I am going to try to nap since I only got about 3 hours of sleep for the last 2 nights.


Mary said...

I am sitting in tears as I read your update. Please know your family (and all of Japan) is in our thoughts and prayers.

I am Laura said...

This is so hard. I am so glad you were not near the epicenter, but I feel so sad for the families that are.

WineLover said...

I had many friends and family ask about you guys and are keeping you in their thoughts and prayers!
Your panic with Evie in school reminds me of 9/11 - Mason was at DC and I must have walked up there 10 times trying to decide if I should get him or leave him there...
thinking of you all!