It’s more than two weeks since the Tohoku earthquake and the news of its effects continue to drive fear through people. But I would like to go back two weeks ago to the day of the quake. As I said in my last post, which I wrote that very evening, the five minutes of shaking that seemed to go on forever with no end in sight I spent with my computer under my desk, twittering and on Facebook with friends, trying to gain some comfort and information when everything all around me seemed about to collapse. Here are a few of my Fb posts as it shook:
Hanna McGaughey is currently under her desk with her computer. . . I haven’t experienced a book falling earthquake until now. . . (March 11 at 1:57pm)
. . . and I just cleaned my room! I’ll have to clean it again! (March 11 at 1:58pm)
. . . still a slight shake going on, but nothing’s falling anymore. I think I’m going to go outside. . . (March 11 at 2:00pm)
. . . to check if my laundry is done. (March 11 at 2:00pm)
When I wrote that I felt like I would never actually be able to leave my little safe space under the desk. I was in complete shock and afraid it might start shaking again at any moment. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I tore together enough courage to crawl out, cover the distance to the front door, and go outside.
I quickly moved my laundry into one of the driers and returned to my apartment. When the earthquake started, I had been cleaning and packing to go to Kyoto, and still in cleaning mode, I quickly picked up everything that had fallen down, laying two vases and some framed family photos down so that they might not fall again. I was lucky that nothing was broken.
(It wasn’t until I had everything put away again that I realized I could have taken a picture of it for the blog, but it wouldn’t have been much to look at. Some of my friends’ apartments were hit harder. One found a lot of things in her apartment smashed, another said her refrigerator moved about 20 centimeters “like it was walking.”)
An aftershock sent me under my desk again, but eventually, with my little red suitcase packed and thinking I should get my ticket for the trip to Kyoto the next day, I packed up by backpack with my computer and camera and headed outside. The owner of the laundromat and a neighbor were talking in the street. The owner explained that he had come to check on the large metal natural gas containers used for the driers. It took me a moment to realize the danger of having a laundromat right next door. Under slightly different circumstances, it just might have blown up right next to me.
My state of shock now deeply entrenched, I continued to the train station, where people were loitering outside, which was strange, because they didn’t look like they were waiting for anyone. The train station was closed. I began walking to the next train station, where I could buy my ticket for the trip to Kyoto, still preferring to go about my life as previously planned instead of dissolving into a state of pure emotional fear.
On my way, I passed a small pharmacy with a large screen TV suspended on one of the walls. Through the glass doors of the shop, I saw all of the pharmacists clustered around the TV, watching live as the tsunami rolled over the Tohoku region. That image is deeply impressed in my memory.
(To be continued. . .)