Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 12, 2012

Today is a rather grim anniversary for many. Not only is it the one year anniversary of the tsunami that wiped out quite a lot of Japan, but it is 10 ½ years since the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001.

With the beautiful warm and sunny weather we're experiencing today (at least in Central Ohio) it's rather difficult (at least for those of us who didn't lose anyone in either tragedy) to feel the sorrow that so many are probably experiencing.

On Friday evening while doing a bit of channel surfing I came across a documentary on National Geographic showing actual footage of the tsunami – both before and after. Having seen video of the tsunami which hit Thailand and other nearby countries, I thought I'd know what to expect, but it still took me very much by surprise. I had always assumed a tsunami was a tall wave with a curl surfers only dream about (much like in the famous Japanese painting). However, the wave doesn't have to be tall to be destructive. It's the speed of the tide as much as anything. It didn't seem like the Japanese had much warning, which may explain why there's still 20,000+ people missing today.

Today my husband showed me a video which demonstrates all the seismic activity in Japan last year continuing to present day I think. Each earthquake is illustrated by a round blip ranging in size depending on the magnitude of the quake. Although the seismic activity was always high, it's only as it gets closer to March 11 that the blips suddenly start hitting the screen with a frenzy not unlike that of paintballs hitting an ill-fated victim out on the field. This continues for several months before finally tapering off.

Going back to the anniversary of September 11, I didn't do anything on the 10th anniversary as it fell on a weekend, and I don't think the weather was very agreeable then. The town where I live, Hilliard, had a special dedication ceremony in their newly created First Responders Park, which contains a flag pole and several pieces of the World Trade Center. I'm not aware there were actually any victims from Hilliard, but the mayor always has to try and top everyone else, so this is where our tax dollars go.

On the actual day it happened, 10½ years ago, like most people, I was at work, but had just come back from lunch about an hour or so before (living in England, we were on GMT) it happened. My office mate and I were alerted to the events by a co-worker whose wife caught them live on television. We were fed several e-mails in rapid succession, and I'm sure there was some discussion about it, but basically we continued working and then went home at our normal time. Of course I turned on the telly, which is when I saw the true extent of the damage. It was only when I saw images of people jumping from the towers that I broke down and cried. I remember later talking to my parents about it. My mother was so distressed that she accidentally backed into someone's car in the parking lot where she works (but no major damage done). I probably talked to my in-laws that night too, and maybe my uncle in California too. I can't remember. My husband was supposed to have some sort of a work do that evening, but it was cancelled in light of the day's events. The most touching event came at the end of the week when my company (the dozen or so of us) went upstairs to the library/conference room for the 2 minutes of silence being observed country-wide. I was a little teary-eyed by the sympathy my co-workers showed for me that week, an act of solidarity I will never forget.

The day of the tsunami, last year, I heard about it over breakfast while listening to NPR. When I got to work I saw some videos online, and just kept checking back periodically to see the extent of the destruction. Later my husband and I made a donation to the American Red Cross and I bought a t-shirt for charity with a picture of Japan on it with the date and a red circle where the epicenter was.

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