Last week, the Global Wisdom arrived in port here, skimming lightly in at high tide, escorted by a couple of tidy Crowley tug boats. Several days later, this traffic-cone-orange cargo ship sailed back up the sound, through the Salish Sea, and out into the Pacific Ocean. Along with thousands of logs from the lumber giant Weyerhaeuser, the Global Wisdom was carrying bottled water: 29 pallets, 1960 bottles per pallet, 16.9 oz. of water per bottle. A total of 960,596 ounces of water, all bound for the people of Kashima in the Tohoku region of northern Japan.
It’s an astounding amount of water – about 7500 gallons or 500 tanks of gas for my car — but nowhere near the amount of water that surged over sea walls and washed away coastal villages after the devastating earthquake on March 11.
Here we are, 6 weeks later, and I still cannot bear to watch the videos of the black water swarming, like some monstrous sea creature, over the walls and buildings of those towns. This series of events is, yes, horrible. But devastation occurs everywhere. Constantly. Just ask the people in Alabama whose homes were demolished by tornadoes yesterday. Their devastation is no less important.
Nonetheless, it is the scale of events in Japan, the continuing series of disasters, that is so heartbreaking: the earthquake itself, registered as 9.0 on the 10-point Richter scale, the tsunami tossing trucks and boats about as if they were toys, the explosions at the nuclear reactors and the subsequent contamination of the surrounding land and water that will displace people for decades and take away their livelihoods. When reading the accounts of the shifts of workers trying desperately to shut the plant down, I imagined the horror of the 3 workers whose legs were inundated by radioactive water – what they must have felt, looking down at their submerged feet.
By now, the tsunami has found its way back to the sea, though water still stands in the lowered fields. The aftershocks may continue for up to 6 months, but the earth will eventually grow quiet. The radiation leak has been stopped, but there are many bodies yet to be recovered.
Natural disasters – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis – pass quickly, though the devastation does not. Manmade disasters, on the other hand, are prolonged, driven by ego, money and the darkness of the human soul. (I admit to growing angry when the front page headlines in the local paper switched from the events in Japan to the attacks on Libya. Disaster reigns there too, but it is one initiated by greed and the desire for power.)
Many of us have tried to find ways to help the people of Japan – donating money, folding chains of paper cranes in a beautiful reversal of custom. The irony of Americans folding cranes for the Japanese can’t be overlooked. It was the nightmare of Hiroshima in 1945 that gave rise to this custom of folding cranes in Japan. The chains of cranes adorning monuments in that city are constantly replenished in an essential effort by people to ensure that beauty overcomes nightmare. The cranes are as necessary and refreshing as the water the Global Wisdom carries.
My heart is especially with the people of Japan, because of the scope of the disaster, and also because of my personal connection. You can look at the photo in the top left corner of this site and know that I am not Japanese, though my surname is. My spouse is a native of Japan, and we lived there with our children for 2 years at the turn of this century. Thankfully, our friends and family there were never in danger, never even felt the quake from their homes in the southwestern part of the country.
I have seen close up the integrity, the diligence and the heart of the Japanese, and I know they will work as long as it takes to recover, bearing their sorrows as they go, always with the goal of making things better. It’s not their first disaster of this scale. One need only look at Hiroshima today to see what might arise from the contaminated fields and flooded plains of Tohoku.
If you’re interested in the ongoing rescue and clean-up efforts in Japan, you can find continuous updates in the Wall Street Journal.
If you’re looking for ways to help the Japanese efforts, consider one of the agencies listed here. These links were sent to me by a friend in Japan:
- Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH), a network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world. If you prefer prayers to dollars, you can offer yours for the specific intentions the organization lists.
- The Red Cross in Japan
- Ashinaga, a Japanese organization that supports orphans.
And if you want to send a message to the people of Japan, this site allows you to translate that message into Japanese.