Originally I was going to make updates on what was going on in Japan and with my friends in Miyagi. However, I found it very difficult to sort through my thoughts to form a post so I wrote a poem instead: “Quake”.
I have received news from/about all 32 friends and acquaintances in Miyagi with whom I am connected on-line. The result is bittersweet. Although I can stop frantically checking facebook and waiting for e-mails, I can now only pray that those I am not in contact with are okay. Even worse is the fact that while 31 of my friends have said they are okay, one is gone forever.
Throughout the weekend following the earthquake, I had gotten word about most of my friends. Tome seemed to be alright, but Minamisanriku, Ishinomaki, and Kesenuma—places where I knew people were—were ravaged by the tsunami. Four of my friends from JET were missing: Canon, Taylor, Jessica, and Rachel. Jessica, who had updated on facebook right after the quake but before the tsunami, and Rachel were originally on the list of JETs whose safety was confirmed, but apparently that was a mistake. Come Monday, I learned that NBC’s Ann Curry had found Canon. There was still hope.
(I couldn’t embed the video so click the link to watch the clip.)
Later in the week, Rachel checked in with her family, who passed along the message of her safety. CBS reported that they had found Taylor, only to discover that the information was wrong. Jessica was finally able to reach her family and was tracked down by CNN, along with another ALT. She had been stuck at her school with no power. Once the weekend rolled around again, Taylor was the only friend still missing. Her family, her friends from home and JET, and others with connections to Miyagi continued to look for information and hope.
Then her sister made the announcement this past Monday that her body had been found. We were all shocked and saddened, but we decided to celebrate her life and the fact that she was a hero up ’til the very end, helping her students to safety after the earthquake hit.
I didn’t really get to know Taylor until late in my JET year, but we did hang out a couple times in the Miyagi-ken Book Club, and I remember her getting excited about my idea of reading Watchmen. I also remember wanting to ask her to teach me the “Hare Hare Yukai” since she mentioned that she knew it. She was kind and cheerful, and she really showed a passion for what she did. Although I am sad that most of America will only know her posthumously, I am somewhat comforted that they will know of her selflessness and love for Japan. Taylor, you will be missed dearly in Japan, America, and wherever else your JET friends are.
Canon, Rachel, Taylor, and Jessica brought brightness, wonder, and fun to Miyagi. – Photo from Canon, taken by Steve Mendoza
My heart goes out to Taylor’s loved ones, as well as anybody else who has lost someone to the quake and tsunami. I hope there will be more miracle survival stories, such as the one about the boy and his grandmother, and more shining heroes, such as the Ishinomaki man who put on a scuba suit to search for his missing family and the nuclear reactor workers. We can all learn a great deal from this tragedy: to never ignore warnings, to help strangers in need (go down a couple of entries to find an updated list of ways you can help), to stay in touch with people from our pasts, and to appreciate the things we often take for granted (like food and electricity) as well as the people.
Listening to: “Inori ~You Raise Me Up~” by Lena Park