First- thanks to all of you for checking in to see how the Clampitts are faring in the face of this Earthquake. I’m certainly not CNN, however, here’s the situation from Shibuya-ku. Spouse is in Osaka- he’s usually gone for major snowstorms, earthquakes, pet emergencies, etc. The kids experienced this first earthquake at school and are currently en route home- a journey that has been underway for the last 4.5 hours as the highways are currently jammed.
For us, it started about 2:30 in the afternoon. I was at the grocery store perusing the narrow aisles, gazing absent-mindedly at syrup,” Breakfast for dinner?” when the boxes started to fall on me as if that was a such a good idea they just jumped on down of their own accord. I hurdled the next three Japanese women in my race to be the first out of the store. I heard the wine crashing to the ground on my way out. I stopped in the middle of the street as all the other people flooded out of the buildings. A man and I looked each other in the eyes as he stood holding on to a swaying telephone pole. Where were my kids? The pole covered a distance of 5 to 6 feet, back and forth. I looked up to see if it would hit me when it fell. The street was narrow- where was I safest? Under one of the building overhangs or lying buried in its rubble? I decided to run for the intersection where there was more space. The Japanese, used to earthquakes, were now starting to panic as the intensity of the earthquake grew. They began to hold each other. Some were starting to cry. The ground was swaying enough to when I moved I lost my footing. Or was it because I was still holding a death grip on my shopping cart? Good thing I brought that along- could I crawl under it? Where were my kids? It lasted forever. Plants started to fall off balconies, cars started moving, bikes fell, the vending machines were toppling over. People were frozen. All was silent except for the sounds of the buildings shaking. Creaking. Squeaking. We all stood rooted to our spot, unmoving, except for our eyes, darting quickly to each building, wondering which one was going to fall on us, all the time evaluating if we would see it in time to run. Was this our time? Where in the HELL was my family?
It stopped. The collection looked at each other. We were alive and the buildings around us were standing. I walked back to the grocery store. The young grocery clerk was crying. I put my arm around her. I talked to her in English. A Japanese woman came over and took her from me. I wished she were my daughter. Broken bottles lay smashed all over the floor. A woman scrubbed tomato sauce with her hands.
My phone didn’t work. I tried to text. That didn’t work. It was quiet. No one was talking. Hundreds of people were lining a tiny street but no one said a word. The subways were closing. People poured out of the hole where the subway belonged.
An aftershock. People grabbed each other. I walked home. I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t understand the announcements- but- the buildings were standing. No fires. No panic. No blood. In the Ouiser hierarchy of panic situations, I chalked this all up as positive.
Upon entering my building, I noticed the water feature now had waves. Another aftershock.
I came in our door. The first signs of damage.
I filled the bath tub with water in case we needed it later.
I opened the windows so they wouldn’t get jammed shut.
The kids texted me that they were on the bus. I started to feel better. Spouse checked in.
Now my emergency preparedness classes finally kicked in:
Fill the bathtub, get out the backpack with the flares, the first aid, the compass, the map, the money, the blankets, the stitch kit, the food, the gun, (just kidding, there’s no gun), cut off the gas and the electricity, make sure there’s enough food for a week, keep passports on us at all times, good thing I registered with the State Department. I actually got the email entitled, “Earthquake and Tsunami Warning from US Embassy.”
The computer worked. I Skyped the Nose- 2:00 AM her time- “When you wake up- you’ll see we’ve had a 8.9 earthquake- we’re all ok. Don’t worry”
“Ok- thanks for calling- good night”
A few minutes later- the news sunk in, I got an email from her thanking me for saving her from the morning panic she would have endured trying to track us down.
Currently public transportation is shut down. For some reason, unless there is an alien invasion, the airports remain open. Sensei is sitting in my living room because she can’t get home. Hopefully I can talk her into spending the night because the alternative is a 4 hour walk home. She’s so polite I might have to lock her in order to make her stay.
Tsunamis now are wreaking havoc. The after shocks continue one after the other. Tonight I’ll feel better when the kids walk through the door. I’ll pray for those not as lucky. And give thanks for those who cared to do the same for us.