Disaster Hits Home for WC Students
By Natalie Butz and
Copy Editor and News Editor
Although Japan is thousands of miles away from campus, the recent earthquake and tsunami that struck the country has had effects which are being felt throughout the world.
According to recent reports, as many as 19,000 to 22,000 people have been reported dead or missing as a result of the disaster.
No Washington College students were studying abroad at the Meiji Gakuin University when the earthquake struck, but four students at WC call Japan home.
One of these students is junior Toki Ii.
“Even though luckily my family did not get any damage from the quake because it happened in northern part and we’re in mid part, I was extremely shocked how my country is facing this devastating disaster, and how other nations are trying to help out,” he said.
Ayami Yoshino, who is from central Tokyo, was not initially surprised when she heard there had been an earthquake in her home country because earthquakes are fairly common in Japan. But when she heard that it was a nine-magnitude quake, she immediately contacted her family.
“[My mom] told me she hadn’t been able to contact my dad because the phone lines were so busy. I had to go to class right after I talked to her and the entire time, I couldn’t listen to the lecture because I was so worried about my dad,” she said. “Right after class, I kept calling home and I was eventually able to get in touch with my dad. He told me he was okay, but he had to sleep in his office because all transportation had been shut down and the roads are so damaged that he couldn’t drive home.”
Yoshino was relieved to hear that her family was safe and her home was not destroyed. She is still, however, shocked by the events.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” Yoshino said. “Even though I’ve seen pictures and I know it’s real, it still feels like a movie. I guess once I go back home and I see it with my own eyes, then it will feel real.”
Stories that Yoshino has heard from home are reminders of the difficulties Japan is facing. She said her family is struggling to find bottled water and food because the supermarkets are so short-stocked.
“My uncle and his family live near Fukushima, which is near the power plant. They tried to escape from the city after the power station was damaged but they couldn’t get enough gasoline to drive to Tokyo. They were trapped in Fukushima for five days. They were very worried about the food being contaminated but they had to eat it because there was nothing else,” she said.
The reality of the disaster has still not completely sunk in for Ayami.
“I’ve been to Sendai. I saw pictures of Sendai on the news and it was so destroyed that I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t look like Sendai anymore and even though I know it’s gone, I still feel like it’s there,” she said.
Senior Eve Nealon studied abroad in Japan, and is especially concerned about the implications the disaster will have for the country’s future. Interrupted production lines are impacting international economics. The disaster has also alerted the international community about the importance of effective communication and nuclear safety measures.
“It throws into question safety measures in terms of energy plants,” Nealon said. “One of the big problems was that international coordination wasn’t as transparent as they would like.”
Nealon was impressed by the United States’ relief efforts.
“I think the fact that the U.S. was definitely going to commit 17 navy ships to help with the relief effort and nuclear power plants was great. It was a big solidarity move for U.S.-Japan relations.”
Junior Caitlin Wolfe, who also studied abroad in Japan, was similarly struck by the humanitarian responses to the disaster.
“I’m very glad so many people care enough to send money over there and hearing that some U.S. citizens are staying behind to help,” she said.
Many WC students are taking an active part in this relief effort. This week, Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) hosted a bake sale and Kappa Alpha held a raffle to raise money for relief efforts.
March 25, 2011
Volume LXXXI Issue 19