I'm sitting in my apartment watching the news and the destruction in northern Japan is horrific. The aerial shots of a wall of water engulfing farmers fields, the night shots of the fires and huge swathes of orange ablaze against the dark night, the huge numbers of people seeking refuge in temporary shelter...
I just can't wrap my mind around it all.
Yesterday when the quake hit I was at work. One of my coworkers freaked out as the quaking kept going and going and going and then got worse and so the three of us in the office went under our desks. The curators jumped up and ran upstairs to the exhibit space to make sure that the exhibits were safe - and found a few items had fallen over so they got out the camera and began taking pictures and documenting what had happened. The archival department checked on the archives and watched as an aftershock started sending the movable shelves up and down their tracks. Meanwhile the director of the museum went from room to room in the "backyard" to check on everybody and the reception staff went around the exhibit space and other public areas to check on all the visitors.
With aftershocks continuing to happen even today, the rest of the afternoon was a washout workwise, but most of us stuck around until 5pm. The train lines were all stopped, and many of my coworkers were thus stranded at the museum (they apparently made a run to a nearby convenience store and spend the evening munching on snacks, drinking, and chatting). I live close enough to walk, however, and it is a very straightforward route by road, so I set out. There were more people walking on the sidewalks than I have ever seen before. Salary men with briefcases, office ladies in their heels, harried looking moms holding tight to the hands of the kids beside them... everybody trying to make it home.
I kept walking. Buses were running but the roads were clogged and the lines at bus stops snaked half way down the block in many spots so despite the fact that I could have caught a bus for the last 2/3 of my walk, I decided to keep walking. That turned out to be the best choice because not one single bus on my route went by me. I actually caught up to and passed two of them - figuring I was moving faster than the traffic I might as well try for the next stop, and then just kept going. One of those buses ended up catching up to me, but by the time it did I would have been getting off two stops later anyways and I could walk a more direct route home than the bus route and avoid the somewhat lengthy walk from the bus stop...
So I kept walking. 2 1/2 hours after leaving the museum (with a few convenience store stops for snacks to keep me going) I reached home. A stuffed penguin had decided it could fly and jumped off the top of my bookcase, and a few other things on high shelves had fallen off, but they had landed on the soft pile of laundry waiting to be sorted and missing my laptop, so there was almost no damage in my apartment. Electricity and water were running normally and my landlord came round and showed me how to restart my gas. Eerily normal.
U lives in Tsukuba, north of Tokyo, and he experienced stronger quakes. His dorm room was a mess but beyond a desk lamp, nothing broken (one rather ugly less thing to move, and one more thing for me to "help" him pick out... he he!). His lab at work lost one of their machines but none of the scary scenarios my imagination was making up for why he hadn't yet texted me came true.
So we are both well. The highway between us, however, is still closed, so he is stuck there and I here. The real estate office is business as usual today so we are hoping to still be able to get out there and sign our contract and pick up our keys. If it doesn't happen, however, it doesn't happen.
Right from the first quake I've been on Facebook, posting updates to relieve my family and friends in Canada and elsewhere, and check in with friends in Japan. It was such a relief to be able to make those instant connections - to know that Umebossy and little O were fine, to check in with Achan and her kids... and it has been overwhelming to read all the comments and messages from my friends around the world expressing their worry and relief. Thank you.
My thoughts and prayers go to Sendai and the rest of northern Japan.