I was in the middle of a meeting, sharing stories with long-time friends at UP Diliman last Friday afternoon when suddenly a colleague came rushing to inform us of the news that there was an earthquake in Japan with an 8.9 magnitude. We were told that because of this, a tsunami was expected to happen within the next few minutes. Before this news sunk in, we heard that a 10-meter high water, a tsunami has just hit the shores of the northeastern part of Japan.
An hour later, another news came that the eastern coast here in the Philippines was already on Alert Level 2 - meaning, residents in these coastal communities will be advised to evacuate to higher grounds. Then was thinking of my hometown, which is located in one of the provinces mentioned...
Watching the news was really heartbreaking. But more than anything else, I was, I am truly impressed and amazed to see how the Japanese people responded to this disaster. Truly admirable and made me bow with full respect. The discipline and order, their automatic response, the humility, the steadfastness, and everything else gave me layers of mixed feelings.
I am thinking aloud here. Please allow me to digress a bit and set aside what I originally intended to write in this post. There is something else that wants to be articulated.
It feels quite different, a restless feeling, when you watch the news of what was happening in Japan and you have dear friends in that country and you want to know how they are and really wish you could be with them in this crisis ...
Aside from the news stories that's been seen and heard on TV and through the internet, I started to have additional insights to what was happening there as I read stories shared through the email from friends who are out there.
As one narrated:
Friday was the scariest day in my life. Our office building was shaking so much and for a long time. But thanks to the engineers and designers of this building that it was earthquake-resistant. In any other country, the building would have collapsed. That is why Tokyo is still in tact. But the cities near the epicenter of the earthquake are all destroyed.
For 12 hours, Tokyo was almost shut -- no trains, no busies, no taxies, traffic jam everywhere ... had to stay at the office the whole night.
Another friend shared:
Here in Tokyo, there was no physical damage. But because of the emergency situation, all public transport stopped and electricity did not work properly. People working had to go back home on foot. Some of the public places such as universities, metropolitan offices, hotels, opened their spaces for the people who could not go home that night. Some people stayed in public places and only went home the following day. Luckily, I was able to go home on foot without problems.
And I could relate very well to what she must be going through when she mentioned towards the end of her letter:
... However, what I am thinking right now is that human beings are very small and can do the least in front of the power of nature. There are many things that are out of our control. I sincerely hope there would not be anymore severe incidents ...
Japan is teaching us a lot of things. Their culture and way of life, the discipline, engineering and design of the physical structures, modern technology, the people's relationship with nature, the drills that need to become part of daily life, the preparedness for this kind of disaster ...
... and the RESILIENCE while in the midst of this situation.
Yes, we need to learn from this. Let us allow this experience to remind us to take NATURE, the Mother EARTH into consideration in anything we do. We are not just individuals in our community, in our own country. We are global citizens, too, and we need to remember that we are all connected.
I'd like to join Paulo Coelho in praying for Japan.