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Posted at 03:25 PM ET, 03/13/2011

Japan earthquake and tsunami: Your stories

WashingtonPost.com readers are sending in their stories about the tornado, tsunami and aftermath in Japan. Here is a selection; check back often for updates.

Janelle Austin ( SrA, USAF), who is stationed at Yokota Air Base, submitted the following account:

First a disclaimer: Any views and opinions expressed in this story are solely my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the United States Air Force or Department of Defense. Now that that’s out of the way…

I am an Airman currently stationed at Yokota Air Base in a suburb of Tokyo. We had just finished a readiness exercise when the earthquake hit. I had been working 14 hour shifts all that week with a raging head cold, and was driving home from the hospital after the end of the exercise when the earthquake hit. When I got home, my family was a bit shaken but the base had not received any damage. That evening, I was sitting on the couch watching TV and struggling to stay awake when I got a phone call. I was recalled to the Security Forces Squadron as an augmentee. Basically what this means is that when the base doesn’t have enough police, I temporarily leave my regular job and become a military police officer until they no longer need me. At first I was upset that I had to go back to work after the long hard week I had, mostly because I was still sick, but when I found out why I had been recalled I instantly stopped complaining and dedicated myself to the cause.

I was sent to the community center we had set up as a shelter to serve on the security team. Several flights were diverted to our base from Narita International Airport and a few flights had to spend the night here. In fact, one of the previous posters, Mr. John Hopewell, stated in his story that he stayed the night here. If you’re reading this, Mr. Hopewell, I’m sorry you had to sleep on the floor but we did the best we could and I hope we were otherwise accommodating. All the passengers, including one cat, made it safely back on their flights. We don’t know at this point if we will be receiving any more diverted flights, but if we do we are ready. Humanitarian aid is our mission, and this kind of thing is what we train for.

Paige Overton of Ventura, CA writes in with her friend Keith Raines’ account from Japan. Raines is an American English teacher in Japan and wrote this message to friends:

For 48 hours the ground beneath us hasn’t stopped moving at times I would say it is a 3 on the Japanese magnitude scale and at other times, I would say it is more like a 5 or a 7. Every 20 minutes or so there is another after shock. I have packed an emergency case and have it by the door. Yuki and I are so scared we will probably sleep in our clothes until the tremors stop. It is literally like Armageddon--you can’t even trust the earth you walk on. We are out of a tsunami’s reach here but it doesn’t stop me from crying for other’s who are not as fortunate tonight. It is now 1am the Saturday after the big earthquake in Japan that has probably claimed more than 10,000 lives. At the very least, 50,000 to 100,000 people or more have been displaced and things are only getting worse. There was another earthquake that probably won’t even make the news in Nigata that was about a 5 on the Japanese scale.

It all started yesterday at about 2:46 pm yesterday. I was at my desk punching away at the oversized calculator I have for figuring out final grades. The room began shaking a little and I shrugged it off as another light quake—we have them almost monthly. Most of our students had already gone home, although there were about 100 or so students still at school doing club and sports activities. Then it really started to shake, I felt like I was on a boat in turbulent waters. Things started falling from shelves and the cup of water I had on my desk started to slosh around so violently that it was coming out of the cup; it was only half full. Crash, I heard things falling and breaking. One of my friends once said that I operate well under stressful situations. Something took over. I just stood up and asked all of the teachers to evacuate the building-- soon after that our automatic earthquake alarm sounded. Some teacher’s screamed and ran out with no regard for anything but their own skins. I had to chuckle to myself because I remembered an episode of Seinfeld-- season 5 (I checked) called “Fire” where Costanza runs from a child’s birthday party after seeing a little smoke and he pushes an old lady with a walker down and pushes kids to get out....

I am no hero but on my way out, I remembered that we still had “bukatsu” or club activity students in the building. I ran to the gym, which has quite a unique roof that I can only describe as looking like the top of a Spanish conquistador’s helmet. I thought that the roof of the gym would be the first to fall. I knew that our girls in the dance club were in there. When I got there I saw some terrified young ladies. I’d like to think I calmly told them to get out but I didn’t, I screamed to them in Japanese and English telling them to get the hell out----- NOW and to hurry. They ran and as an afterthought, I said, “Kiyotsukete” or be careful. It was freezing and I soon noticed that I forgot my jacket and bags. I went back in to get them. I would hate to survive an earth quake of this magnitude then die from exposure or an asthma attack. Besides, some of my students were freezing and I had some chemical warmer packets in my bag. I ran in to get my bags and jacket. Things were everywhere in the building but mostly papers.

I can safely say that this earthquake was the longest lasting I have ever experienced. In the eight years I have been here, I would estimate that I have experienced an average of three or four per year—so about 25-30 earthquakes not including the last 48 hours. We have probably had at least half that number in just the last 48 hours. I just felt another one two minutes ago....

Aozora Brock, 17, of Illinois is studying abroad in Tokyo for 10 months this year. Here
Stranded passengers wait for the next train to arrive at the JR Tokaido Line platform at JR Shimbashi Station on Saturday. (Steven Takashi Negishi)
is her account of Friday’s earthquake:

Stranded in central Tokyo, my friend Aya and I listened intently as an elderly Japanese man - who reminded me a bit of my father because of his calm, kind smile - told us the safest place to be was in the middle of the central plaza near Ikebukuro Station. There, he explained, we would be equidistant from both lines of skyscrapers surrounding us. I looked up at the Sunshine City skyscrapers and Parco buildings. They loomed ominously as aftershocks continued to rumble under our feet. The gentleman noticed my anxious glances and said not to worry. He explained that we would be safe in the plaza because the buildings were designed not to topple sideways like a felled tree, but to crumble straight down.

So Aya and I sat down in the middle of the plaza. On the cement in front of us, we emptied our pockets and purses and took inventory. We had three boxes of chocolate-filled pretzel sticks, a bag of chips, our cell phones--working only intermittently -- an umbrella, and a book and an iPod to keep us company. Looking at our possessions and each other, we felt in good shape, although Aya cursed herself for not wearing a jacket and deciding to wear high heels when she left home that morning.

-----

In Japan, the school year ends in March, and so we were ending our first week of vacation. I’d been in Japan for over six months, and had gotten comfortable with most aspects of my life far
Empty shelves at 7-11 store in Tokyo. (Steven Takashi Negishi)
away from my family’s farm in central Illinois. I got up each morning in an apartment in central Tokyo, took the public train to my all-girl high school, played ping pong after school, and came home each evening to take a long bath in the relaxing fumes of orange peels and to finally curl up, always exhausted, in my roll up bed stationed in the living room.

But Friday, March 11 was one of those days when nothing went as planned.

My friend Aya and I were supposed to meet at Ikebukuro Station at eleven to go see a movie together, but we ended up meeting at noon. We had planned to watch the movie first and then eat, but we ended up eating lunch first and bought tickets to the next showing. Then we sank into our comfortable theater seats on the forth floor of the Sunshine Movie Theater to experience a world of adventure and action through the eyes of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

I had just finished gobbling up a packet of chocolate-filled pretzels and was wondering to myself how the other three packets could last me through the two-hour movie if I had already devoured one during the previews, when I began to feel queasy. Everything seemed to be rocking. “Aya,” I whispered, “I feel – ”

At that moment, the whole movie theater jolted side to side – and kept on jolting. The jolts were irregular as they sped up to slow down again and many times I thought the shaking would stop, but they would come back stronger than ever. There was a hush – then everyone in the theater – young couples, friends and families – began to talk all at once. The word “jishin” rumbled like thunder throughout the theater and lit the match of panic inside of me. My brain went into overdrive as to what to do in this situation—an earthquake in a movie theater in a high-rise building—but Aya grabbed my hand and pulled me down in between the seats. After the screen blacked out following a particularly heavy shake, couple after couple gathered their belongings to rush out of the theater quietly, men pulling their dates’ hands in full-out panic.

Aya and I locked eyes and grabbed our belongings as well, but our hands stopped mid-air when we overheard a conversation between the young couple behind us. “It’s okay – just don’t move,” a guy was telling his girlfriend, the powerful tone in his voice not quite disguising the fear and panic there, too, “DON’T MOVE.”

With that, Aya and I squatted down again. Eons seemed to pass until the shaking finally started to subside. When the ground seemed solid again, we breathed a sigh of relief and stood back up. Soon a theater representative entered and with a shaky voice, asked those of us who were still left to please evacuate, using the stairs.

We finally emerged into the gigantic crowd of people down in the streets of Ikebukuro. They were milling about, looking just as confused as we were. It seemed that every square foot of the sidewalks below the gigantic skyscrapers were taken up by people who had evacuated. I imagined the buildings collapsing and all of these people screaming and rushing, toppling over each other to get away from the falling objects. It was enough to cause a tsunami of panic to sweep over me. “Aya, we need to get out of here!” I cried to my friend, who was looking bewildered as well, “We need to escape to a park or something!”

---

This was when the kind gentleman had appeared to guide us to the center of the plaza, where we were still waiting. But we lacked water and were getting cold sitting in the vast, windy plaza. So we made our way across the street and to the nearest cafe. To our dismay, it had closed. Looking around, we saw that most of the shops and restaurants in Ikebukuro had also closed.

It was clear that everyone in Ikebukuro — thousands upon thousands of people — wished to go home. There were lines a quarter of a mile long to catch buses and taxis. There were crowds around the koban (police station) of panicked people yelling out questions. People lined the outsides of buildings, train station stairs and the central plaza — sitting, standing, couples snuggling close to keep warm, trying to contact someone — anyone, to come get them — others playing games on their phones and ipods – all waiting to go home.

Even though two hours had passed since the initial jolt, the trains were still not moving and an exhausted announcer kept repeating, “We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. We do not know when the trains will commence to move again.”

Aya’s parents realized this as well and since the roads were gridlocked, they began to walk across Tokyo to come and get us. By the time they arrived — eight hours after the quake and four hours since they set out from home – they looked exhausted. Aya’s mother, a tall woman with a big laugh, was carrying a four-year-old dachshund, Coco, in a pouch in front of her like a baby while Aya’s father had been carrying a mountain-climbing bag that he opened to give Aya a change of shoes and an overcoat.

After filling the cafe with relieved cries that we were alright, Aya’s father promptly collapsed on a chair to rest. Aya’s mother refused to sit, saying she knew she would not be able to get up if she did – and rocked the large-eyed, terrified-looking dog instead. They then told us how sidewalks throughout Tokyo were packed with people – all trying to get home. Their eyes got wide when they told us about the gigantic, rushing tsunami waves they saw in a river near Ochanomizu, near the center of Tokyo - an effect of the earthquake that had happened some two hundred miles north and east of Tokyo. “Those waves – it was nothing like I have ever seen before,” Aya’s mother said, still rocking, her voice filled with emotion.

Perhaps because I still did not know of the disastrous effects of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake on the northern part of Japan, or maybe because I was punchy from exhaustion – I found myself laughing frequently as we began the long walk back to Aya’s house. It was dark and cold and when I think of it now, a bit unsafe to be walking across a large city at night. But there was a lightness in my step and in my heart as we continued the walk home, with Aya’s father stopping often to stretch and to rest. We passed baseball stadiums, ferris wheels, large college campuses, the famous Sumida river, and the newly constructed Sky Tree skyscraper, which was in competition to be the world’s next tallest building…and I was thankful for the fact that I was able to see all of these sights walking through Tokyo on a dark night with a sliver of moon overhead.

Aya’s mother suddenly announced that we were only 10 minutes from home. We stopped then to stock up on ready-to-eat rice and other foods and carried them all the way up to the sixth floor of their apartment building. (The elevator had stopped because of the quake.) Upon entering, it seemed that the apartment had been ransacked by vandals. But it was the earthquake that had caused CDs and books to fall to the floor, a bottle of soy sauce to break and fill the house with salty fumes, and the china above the TV looking as if it would fall any minute.

Having safely walked through Tokyo, and arrived safely home, Aya and I had brushed off the earthquake as minor. Aya even said it would not go down in history. Then we turned on the TV. Images of flooded towns, fires at nuclear plants, tsunami waves crashing into houses and blowing them to smithereens filled the broadcast …and on the screen, a tally: “Over five hundred lives lost and counting.”

The awful truth hit me like another seismic shock: as I had waited in the plaza in Ikebukuro, as I had been walking home, as I had been laughing with Aya, towns had been destroyed and people were dying. All at once my energy drained and I craved sleep more than anything in the world.

As I lay down in Aya’s room and closed my eyes, scenes rushed across my mind – I saw myself stuck in Ikebukuro for eight hours, the horrible traffic jams on the roads and the sight of so many people stuck in the city with no way home. Then the scenes from the television flooded my mind – of floating bodies, fearful families awaiting news of the whereabouts of relatives, and fires burning throughout the night. Finally, the kind, worried voices of my family and friends in Japan and in America rang in my ears. I remembered pointing out the slice of moon shining brightly on our walk home, shining on people I loved here and on the other side of the earth.

As I faded into dreamland, I hoped with all my might that when I woke up the next morning, everything would turn out to be just a horrible dream.

Yet still, the nightmare continues…

Steven Takashi Negishi, a graduate of George Washington University, now lives in Yokosuka, Japan and works in Tokyo.

I work in the area called Marunouchi near Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo’s business district for a financial firm on the 19th floor. It was before 3pm JST when the earthquake hit. There was an earthquake 3 days before which lasted about a minute, so I thought maybe this was going to end quickly since we are so used to the earthquake. But it kept going longer than I expected and shook violently. Next thing you know, everyone inside the office was underneath the desk scared. We have a fish tank in the floor I work and it rocked hard side to side and water spilled out. It lasted about few minutes. The scary part was the number of aftershocks that took place. I felt it while underneath the desk. The building started to make creaky sounds which we never heard before and I was genuinely concerned that the building was seriously damaged and near collapse. I was speaking with my father using VOIP phone while this was taking place, and made a frantic call to my mother and relatives in the northern part of Japan, but the lines were dead. Text messages weren’t working either.

Soon, we saw horrific scene of tsunami engulfing cars and houses in the northern part of Japan in our monitor. Many people started to leave the office after 5pm in order to survey the damage to their apartment/homes, but all public transportation, such as trains, subways, and buses were paralyzed. People flocked to the cabs and soon, massive lines were formed outside the taxi stand outside the train station. Those who stayed on wore a helmet to finish up whatever work was left and headed out as well. Majority of them live Tokyo, so they decided to either stay at a friend’s house or walked to their home. One friend told me he walked about 6 hours from his office to his house.

I had an option to stay or find a hotel and to stay, so I decided to head out knowing that odds of finding a hotel to stay was slim to none. At the same time, I wanted to see what outside looked like since I was stuck inside the office building the whole time. I have attached a zip file which contains all the photos that I took while wandering around in the streets of Tokyo. As you can imagine, all hotels were completely booked, so I turn my attention to finding a shelter. I got a direction from the local police box and was told there is an evacuation spot set up at an local elementary school. While walking to get there, my leg was starting to cramp up badly as I was walking for few hours and while carrying emergency kit provided by the company. I saw a large hotel near the train station and to my amazement, the hotel lobby was filled with stranded passengers such as myself who was sitting/lying on the marble floor and carpet, looking really tired. I decided to stay rather than walk and get there not knowing whether I can be admitted.

Reina Noguchi who lives in Tokyo, was working in a restaurant in Roppongi when the quake hit.

Usually, I stand at a counter where all the dishes are there, but at that time, I was washing the dishes in the kitchen.

At first, I felt a slight shake, but my co-worker and I thought that it was a little one which will end soon.

But the quake seems to never stop and it was getting bigger, so one employee yelled that we had to get out of there.

Since the restaurant is three stories high and we were at the second floor, we had to go down the stairs to get out, but since it was shaking so badly, I couldn’t go down the stairs smoothly. Besides, the building itself was really old... I think it was built like 50 years ago.

So finally we got out, and all the other people around the building was coming down and gathering at a parking lot.

And I actually saw Tokyo Tower bending from the shake.

I was really scared and felt my heart pump so fast...and I was holding hands with my co-worker(whom I wasn’t really familiar with...)

After the earthquake seemed to calm down, we went inside the restaurant again to check if things were alright.

But it was a disaster.

All the dishes was crashed down from the shelves at the counter.

Since we literally stacked our dishes at the counter, there was nothing to prevent the dishes from falling down.

The floor of the counter was full with broken glasses and dishes that there wasn’t a single space that we could walk.

I was terrified because that was where I usually stand and work...I could have been injured if I was standing there.

Fortunately, no one got hurt, including the customers who were still inside the restaurant.

The next thing I noticed was the smell of alcohol.

Since there are about two bars inside the restaurant, all the wine, beer, liquor bottles were spilled and crashed down inside the bar counter.

I think there were hundreds of glass bottles that broke. Again, there were no place to step in inside the bar counter.

We got our customers outside the building, because there were still few aftershocks.

Because of the quake, we told the customers that we didn’t need any charge for the food, but almost all of them said that they’ll be coming back to pay after the situation settles.

So all the customers and workers got out of the building and was desperate to go inside a warm, safe building.

The manager told us that we can go home if we can. Since the train was not moving at all, all we could do was wait or walk home.

I live in part of Suginami, so I knew it would take about 3 hours walking home from there.

But I could not reach my parents(I called them for few times, but the phone never got connected) and I was worried so I decided to go home by walking.

Even though my friends warned me that it could be pretty dangerous walking alone at night especially when you’re a girl, but I just wanted to go home as fast as I can and check if everything was fine.

And actually, there were hundreds of people walking so I felt like I was not alone. Few of them were still wearing helmets.

During the way back home, I was able to get a text from my parents telling me that everybody was ok.

Luckily, I was able to get back to my home after three hours of walking, and spend the night with my family.

Robert Magner, 70, of Arlington, was waiting at a Japan airport when the earthquake hit:

I was at Narita airport scheduled to leave for DC at 4 PM. The earthquakes intervened and the airport authorities evacuated the building and then held all there on the first floor telling us that there would be no planes leaving until the next day, if then. My United Airlines flight (898) however after about six hours was scheduled to leave. It was the only flight to go to the US that day after the event. It appeared that a crew was made up from personnel already at the airport who while they had already worked were prepared to stretch their work rules and allow the flight to go. We - the 300 passengers were very grateful. The last time there was clapping on take off when I flew was in Vietnam. This was certainly a different situation but the feeling of relief was similar.

An American physician living in Japan sent us the following account of his experience:

My home is about 100 miles south of Fukushima, in Tochigi prefecture. At the time of the quake, I was teaching in a hospital on the northern edge of Tokyo (in Omiya). Most notable was how normal everything looked outside after the quake in that area. No one in any panic.

The quake was strong and of longer duration than the many small ones we get here in Japan. I left the hospital by bus, normal time, etc., and until I got to the station, I didn’t think anything big had happened.

Once I got there, many people were lined up outside the station. All the stores were closed (400pm). The trains were all stopped, including local trains and the Shinkansen (bullet trains).

For me, the whole thing was a big inconvenience. McDonalds remained open, and there was no way to get home so I ended up sleeping on the floor of a hotel lobby once the McDonalds closed at 1100pm. I got home the next morning. Not a very exciting story really, but I am lucky that things were not worse for me. We have a lot of family in Sendai and thankfully everyone is OK.

Geary L. Hoover of Hagerstown, Md., said he spoke to his son over Skype this morning, as aftershocks continued to ravage Japan. Kevin Hoover, 29, teaches English in Fujisawa. His father sent us this account:

Kevin told his mom and I that he was on the seventh floor of his school building, teaching students when shocks came. They had young students down under their desk during the beginning of the shocks, then rushed them down the stairs to get out to the street.

I had tears in my eyes and became very emotional, for this was one of my wife’s and I biggest fears was a big earthquake and/or tsunami hitting Japan.

As we were talking and viewing on Skype, Kevin was experiencing aftershocks, and we could see him tuned into what was happening to his bedroom in a high-rise apartment in Fujisawa, Japan. We all were very emotional and had a group hug on Skype.

Geary Hoover sent us the following update early Sunday morning:

We lost communication with our son, nothing for over 24 hours now, last time we talked, gas and water was out, very low on food and bottle water, local shops were bare from people rushing in, buying everything they could, no traffic, no deliveries, no train service, nothing coming in or going out. Last we talked, there is fear in Japan that the coming full moon is causing them problems already, the last time the moon was this close to the earth was in 2005 and there was a huge 9.0 earth quake several days before this moon. Now also, the Japanese people fear, that Mt. Fuji will erupt once again as it did after their last large quake some years ago.

John Hopewell was on United Flight 897 from Washington Dulles to Beijing via Narita, which was due to land in Tokyo at 3:25 p.m. As the plane was descending toward Japan, Hopewell wrote:

The pilot came on and said that there was a massive earthquake, Narita was closed and were being diverted to a US air force base (I think it is called Yokota?). Other international flights were coming in and the tarmac so crowded, we were parked wing tip to wing tip. After 3 hours and refueling we were flown to Osaka. No chance getting to Tokyo today. The mood in the country is somber, though no hint of damage here.

Hopewell is currently staying put in Osaka, where there is little damage but still trying conditions for a traveler:

Hotel rooms are 100% booked and hundreds slept in the hotel. We met a foreign service officer taking her 15 year old daughter to Seoul to visit a prospective high school, a guy trying to get to Mexico from Bali etc. Thank god a kind Japanese guy who was stranded and staying in our hotel led us through dizzying train transfers last night at 1am. I called him our Angel.

Hiroko Okura was on the 31st floor of her office at the Fast Retailing Co. in Tokyo. She felt the first earthquake at 2:46 p.m.

“It was so sudden,” she wrote by e-mail. “The whole building was swinging to the sides so I felt sick and it was like sea sick.”

Nothing broke, but shelves slid from side to side. Employees waited under their desks until they were asked to evacuate the 45-story building.

“We tried to evacuate from the floor but . . . many people from upstairs [were] already coming down so all of the 4 emergency exits got packed and none of our people could leave,” he wrote. “ People from our floor finally could start going down 30-40 minutes”after the announcement.

Once her group made it down the stairs and outside, Okura says, there were so many people that it was difficult to find anybody. There was very little order, and nobody seemed to know what was happening.

“People downstairs all looked just puzzled but I saw no panic,” she wrote. In the end, she said nearly 400 workers in his building “remained in the office to spend the night because their trains were completely stopped. I thought I never be able to get out.”

Andrew Schecker of Chesapeake, Va., lives in the capital of Akita Prefecture, Akita-shi, where he works as an English teacher for a private children’s school. His account:

The day of the quake I was in my apartment preparing for work later in the evening. -Right when the quake hit Akita, I was on my computer checking e-mail and watching videos on youtube. Suddenly my room shook. For the past week I had felt a lot of aftershocks and tremors from the prior earthquake so I was not too worried about things until the violence of the shaking increased at an amazing pace. My two story apartment building began to creek and shutter as if it were made of jelly while the ground outside roared and rumbled. I was almost certain my building would be damaged. Everything in my room began to rattle uncontrollably, including myself. At that moment I got out of my chair and sat on the floor so make sure that I would not fall over. As the quake continued I began to throw on every winter sweater, jacket, scarf, and hat I owned. I was preparing myself for evacuating my apartment if it started to collapse. Then the lights flickered and the power went out.

Phones weren’t working, and like many others in the city, Schecker said he didn’t realize just how severe the earthquake had been. He left his apartment and began walking to the train station to commute to work.

It might seem odd that I would do that, but I did not want anger my company by not going to work if I could still manage to get there, and this was the only train I could take that would get me to work on time since trains are few and far between in the countryside.

As I stepped out my door, I was greeted by a green sky, that I had only ever seen in Chicago during tornadoes, lightly powdering the ground with a curtain of snow. The traffic lights were out and I was forced to walk in between cars stuck in traffic. About three minutes into my journey I saw a massive flash of light, which I had thought was a camera, until I heard the ground rattling roar of thunder. It seemed like the Earth had decided the quake wasn’t enough so it brought down freezing temperatures, snow/sleet, and thunder.

Looking out the windows I saw that all the taxi, usually swarming around the exit had all but disappeared and only two buses seemed to be running out of a terminal that housed fifteen.

I could make out a majority of the conversations around me. Most of them belong to school children stranded, mid-way, on their trips home. There was an echo of the same phrases across the large pathway inside the station: “I’m so scared,” “I want to go to the bathroom, but there is no light and a massive line,” “Does your phone work?”

After trying to call my closest friends and coworkers for the 100th time I decided that I should try and log on to facebook (I had the bars, for web I guess, just not for communication) I immediately posted what I suppose is the most important status report of my life “I’m ok. . .” I then began checking the website for the New York Times for information but I quickly moved to BBC.com for my information when the New York Times kept asking me to log in.

After about an hour of standing in the station I decided to head back to my apartment. On the way back I stopped by the local, mom-and-pop liquor store to get some water and food for the night.

It became dark and cold fast, so I crawled into bed with four pairs of socks, two sweaters, one jacket, gloves, and a hat and tried to go to sleep, hoping to sleep through the pitch black, bitter cold night ahead of me. I woke up around 10 pm and hastily searched for the one candle I had in my apartment. A small birthday candle shaped like a piece of strawberry shortcake. After finding my matches I lit the candle and began to try and figure things out. I kept my phone off most of the time, only turning it on to check for mails from friends and the news. I did not sleep well that night. With the stress or the whole ordeal bundled up with the fact that I was alone, in the dark, feeling each violent aftershock (which came at least every 15 minutes) and very very cold I could not rest.

I soon left my apartment in search of three important things: food/water, candles, and a portable phone charger (my phone was the only thing keeping me informed and in, very limited contact with others. Arriving at the nearest convenience store I was greeted by the image of a young mother working earnestly to help everyone buy their goods while to kept watch of her young child, who was strapped to her back. I was soon told that they had nothing left and that I should try somewhere else.

Moving on to the nearest grocery store, I saw a line, which wrapped around the block, for entrance in to the store. I decide to pass the store up in hopes that the next (cheaper and bigger) grocery store would have a shorter line. I was in luck. In about 30 minutes I was inside the store with a middle-aged woman who marked and wrote down each item I put into my cart. We spoke briefly about Sendai, and how I had friends there as well as her own friends experiences concerning the impact of Katrina on their life in Arkansas.

Leaving the store, with two bags filled with canned, goods, candles, lighters, tea, and mikans (Japanese tangerines) I headed home. Exhausted from the long haul, I quickly fell asleep and awoke from a rather vivid nightmare. Realizing I still had no phone charger I proceeded to ride my bike around the entire city in hopes that a convenience store or grocery store might still have a few left over. I hoped wrong. After three hours of searching, I headed home to be greeted with the sound of my neighbors vent fan. The power had returned. My lights were on, my water was running, my air conditioner/heater was working, and my candles were now completely useless.

From that moment on I spend all my time checking the internet for news of Sendai and learning as much as I could about the reactor in Fukushima.

I believe the cruel joke to all this is that I am moving on March 27th to Sendai for a new job, or at least I was planning to. At the moment I have no idea if my new apartment has survived the earthquake or the tsunami (as it is close to the coast). It seems like this disaster might have just put me out of a job.

As I finish writing this I want to make it abundantly clear that I am still feeling a large number of powerful aftershocks along with the never ending wail of ambulance and fire engine sirens. Even with my power back, tonight will be another long, lonely night.

We encourage you to continue to submit your stories, photos, and more.

By and  |  03:25 PM ET, 03/13/2011

 
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