Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan's powerful earthquake and tsunami


We are just guests in Mother Nature's home, wrote a friend. /
 Tonight, the ocean is dry.

"You can't control nature, but when something like this happens, you really realize the power of nature."
~ Hideki Okajima, Boston Red Sox pitcher

Each year, natural disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis strike.  No part of the world, it seems, is immune from the wrath of Mother Nature.

In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami that befell Sumatra, Indonesia resulted in over 200,000 deaths.  It's a very humbling statistic.

"We are just guests in Mother Nature's home," wrote one of my Facebook friends on Friday evening. "May Japan recover quickly."

It's a sincere, heartfelt sentiment that I'm sure many of my friends share in the wake of Friday's devastating and deadly natural disaster that jolted Japan at 2:46 p.m. local time.

Unfortunately, Japan's geographic location in the Asia/Pacific Rim is very seismically active.  So, Friday's 8.9 catastrophic earthquake off the northeastern coast of Japan, coupled with the unleashing of a deadly, 10 meter-high tsunami that tore away buildings from their foundations and washed away cars stretching over a 100-mile swatch, should not come as a total surprise.  It was Japan's worst earthquake in its recorded history, which rocked buildings 235 miles away in Tokyo.

Right now, there's a struggle to reach survivors.  The epicenter occurred near the Northeast city of Sendai. While the loss of life and property is considerable ~ estimates suggest that the death toll will eventually exceed 1,000 ~ fortunately, it appears that strict building codes and disaster preparedness prevented a greater loss of life in lieu of the vast destruction, which has included deadly fires and a fear of some small radiation leaks in at least two of Japan's nuclear power plants.

From a humanistic viewpoint, it hurts to see Japan, a very proud, rich and high-tech nation, suffer such a heartbreaking natural disaster.  For that matter, it hurts to see any country endure any kind of natural disaster.  I can't imagine the pain that the good citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand suffered earlier this year with their earthquake let alone fathom the tragedy that has struck Japan.  The road to recovery facing both countries is staggering.  It will take much time and money ~ and a lot of patience.  Thoughts and prayers, I'm sure, are also a welcome resource.

Watching the incredible ~ albeit very sad and heartbreaking ~ video footage coming out of Japan throughout the day on CNN brought the maddening destruction into my living room.  It reinforced a grim reminder that I shared Friday morning with my Facebook friends:  Do not turn your back to the ocean.

Those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area woke up Friday morning feeling a little nervous as the tsunami wave thundered across the Pacific Ocean.  Precautions were taken, and a major northern California coastal highway was closed to traffic from San Francisco to Santa Cruz throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.  Fortunately, the worst damage to the Bay Area occurred in some area marinas and harbors, where some boats and pleasure craft were roughed up by choppy water.

As my American friends, who reside along the southern Gulf Coast and up and down the eastern Atlantic seaboard ~ whose lives often have been affected by the threat of or damage from hurricanes ~ can attest: Do not underestimate the power of water.

"Dear Almighty Father," wrote another of my Facebook friends. "Please help these victims as I pray for all who are enduring loss of their family members and their loved ones.  Help the children and adults to overcome this horrible tragedy in the days, weeks and months to follow."  Kind and heartfelt words, indeed.

For all the criticism thrown at social media outlets like Facebook, make no mistake:  It's given us a forum to convey our feelings and share our thoughts with our friends, both close to home as well as across oceans.

Today, it's been very comforting to share e-mails via Facebook in the hours following the world's latest natural disaster. From an old high school friend, who has endured several Gulf Coast hurricanes in Mississippi, to a new friend I made just a few days ago, who works in the fine arts in the United Kingdom, who asked about damage to my area and wanted to wish me a peaceful weekend.

Finally, I feel extremely fortunate to know that a longtime friend of mine, retired from the U.S. Navy, who resides near Yokosuka, Japan is alive and well, having endured by his estimate 140 aftershocks ~ and simply asks for our thoughts and prayers in the hours and days ahead.

"All is well with family and co-workers," he wrote in an e-mail I received Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the earthquake-tsunami tandem. "Wish I could say the same for the rest of the country."

The American statesman, poet and inventor Ben Franklin once said : "When the well is dry, we know the worth of water."

Tonight, the ocean is dry, and a very proud nation is badly stricken, searching for help and compassion from its friends and neighbors, near and far, in the lonely days ahead.

Calla lily photo by Michael Dickens (copyright 2010).  All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, that was so beautifully written. I am so proud to call you my friend. May the Lord be with you always.

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