Written by SUZUKA NAMIE At Saitama Prefectural Kumagaya Nishi High School From Fukushima Prefectural Haracho High School on April 1st 2011 Since March 11th our lives have completely changed. As things have gradually becomemore stable since the chaos that followed that day, I have gotten the spare time to considerthe disaster, our future and myself. I would like to get used to life here in Saitama soon, buton the other hand, I’m sometimes afraid that my heart will forget Fukushima, feeling like mypresent life is replacing my old one. On March 11th at 2.46pm, the Great East Japan Earthquake happened. I was in my WorldHistory class on the first floor of the school when suddenly strange and scary noises soundedin the classroom and students’ phones began making weird noises. Immediately, I noticedthat these were Emergency Earthquake Announcements on students’ cell phones. A fewseconds later it started shaking, so we hid under our desks and waited for the tremor to end.First, it shook a little, but gradually it swayed harder and harder. I felt as if I was rolling withmy desk from left to right. I remember clearly that some of my classmates were crying andothers were screaming in panic. I was more calm than I expected I would be and thought tomyself, “This must be the earthquake off Miyagi prefecture” which we had anticipated. After the earthquake we went into the schoolyard. It was still winter in Fukushima and verycold and continuous big aftershocks made us very scared. Students from the 3 rd and 4th floorsran into the yard after us too, but it was several minutes later that a student in a wheelchairgot out of the building, being pushed by some teachers. I felt very sorry for her that she wasforced to be left alone in the building during the continuous aftershocks. I was so shockedand lost for words to see the tsunami on a video on my friend’s phone. Even during theearthquake, I never imagined that such a big tsunami would happen. That night I stayed at school. Fortunately, I could make contact with my family, but the
route to my house had been closed by flooding ,and in my house the water supply hadstopped and we had no idea when electricity would be restored. It was safer in school than atmy house, so I stayed there. I tried not to show my sadness because around me I knew somefriends who couldn’t get in touch with their families yet, but when I was ordered to stay atschool, I felt sad as if I was abandoned by my family, seeing friends going back to theirhouses with their parents one after another. In Namie town, where I used to live, there was an area called “Ukedo”, which was a famousfishing district. When I heard from a teacher that Ukedo was gone, I escaped from reality,telling myself “It’s impossible! Why?” As I saw a friend of mine who lived there not cryingbut only nodding at the news, I knew I had to accept the tsunami as reality and I felt helplessthat I could do nothing. That night aftershocks every few minutes prevented me from sleeping well, so I thoughtabout my family, and friends who could go back to their homes. The next day, March 12 th,was a long day. In the morning, I found the gymnasium the temporary morgue and a teachertold me that my house was within 10km from the nuclear power plant and inside theevacuation zone. At that time, I thought what a terrible thing to have happened to us, but Istill didn’t expect that we wouldn’t be able to go back to my house for so long. Later, my parents came to school and we evacuated to our relative’s house, which was20km distance from the power plants. About 20 people, including my family had alreadygathered there, but at 3.36pm, a hydrogen explosion happened at the power plant and wewere ordered to leave there too. In the second evacuation, we went to an acquaintance’s house which was further away fromthe power plant. It was the toughest time for us to be there, as we had to live with peoplewho we had never seen before. I felt uncomfortable, neither taking a bath nor using my
cellphone, but I knew I shouldn’t complain. “There is no help for me, everyone is the same”:all I could do was telling me those words again and again. There were many evacuation centers in the area, and the hope that I maybe would see somefriends there, brought me to the shelters, but I ended up regretting having gone there. Thegymnasiums and classrooms were very crowded with a lot of people and the toilets were sodirty. I felt even the same evacuees, the people who stayed in our acquaintances house likeme, were only like onlookers, or strangers. At the entrance to the school buildings there weremany bulletin boards which said the name lists of the people who were in the shelter and anumber of people who were searching the names of their families and friends. Since thedisaster happened in the day time on a week day, there seemed to have been many peoplewho had escaped individually from where they worked and their houses then lost theirfamily members. After a while, we evacuated to our cousin’s house in Ibaragi Prefecture, having left ourgrandparents, who didn’t want to leave Fukushima, behind. As we were suffering from asevere shortage of gasoline at the time, we ran out of gas on the way there. We had to sleepin the car that night. We managed to arrive, taking and changing trains, which had just startedrunning again that day. At our cousin’s house, we could get back to a kind of normal,thinking the hard days before were a lie; it felt like a different life. In Fukushima there were few stores open, so we had to drive a long way to get food withlittle gasoline. But we reached a place where all the shops in the neighborhood were openand it was the first time for me to know my friends were OK via email. It made us relievedand glad, however, I also felt guilty that only I was able to have an ordinary life, thinkingabout the friends of mine who were still in the shelter, and our grandparents in Fukushima. Later we came to my uncle’s house in Saitama, as we knew we probably wouldn’t be able
to return to Fukushima immediately. Of course, I began to look for a high school seeing as Iwould be living here for a while. It was much harder than I expected to find a school.Although I knew I had to go to school, it made me realize I wouldn’t be going back toFukushima for a long time. I had another reason why I wanted to put off the decision, andthat was that the High School I studied at in Fukushima was one I had chosen myself and gotaccepted to through hard work. I loved it very much because I had studied for a year. Theschool I was going to transfer too was also very competitive to get into and I was so afraidthat students in that school wouldn’t welcome me, seeing as I was starting at the beginningof second grade. However, they accepted me very kindly and I was relieved. I expected to beasked a lot of questions about the earthquake and tsunami and nuclear power plant, but I wassurprised that nobody asked me about these things at all. I found that the other students tookgood care of me but I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable about being asked lots of questions aboutthe earthquake, rather, I hoped they would know much more about it. It has been nine months since the earthquake occurred. I never thought I would be separatedfrom my friends who I had been to high school with for a year and other friends who I hadstudied with at Junior High School. I feel very sad that I will never see some of them again. I have often thought that all this is the fault of the nuclear power plant; that I’m unable tosee my friends, that I must be worried about the future, that I have to begin from nothing inan unfamiliar place. I’m always anxious. Fukushima is recovering much more slowly thanother areas hit by the disaster and I haven’t been able to go back to my house even once toget my things. Without the nuclear power plants, nothing would have changed in my life.However, I don’t feel like nuclear power caused all the accidents and trouble. Certainly, wehave lost many things because of the nuclear power, but they have contributed to people a lotbefore the disaster. Towns and villages around the power plants owe a lot to nuclear powerplants. It is honorable to get a job in the Tokyo Electric Power Company and I know manypeople who are still eager to work for the company. At this moment, some of my friend’s
fathers are still helping reconstruct the devastated buildings at the power plant. If it wasn’tfor the power plants, most of us couldn’t have enjoyed the lives we had. Now that I am apart from Fukushima, I can see that Fukushima is extremely precious forme. Fukushima is now famous all over the world, but I regret it became well known becauseof the disaster. Though Fukushima is rural, we have rich nature and many delicious foods. Idon’t want to see our traditional events and local culture stop because of the earthquake. Ihope that someday Fukushima will become a place which attracts people from all over theworld, although this is impossible in the short term. If I can do something to help this, I willcooperate with it and I will do my best until the day when my dream comes true.