Sunday, March 13, 2011
A 3 AM aftershock woke me up, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I thank God for electricity, so I could turn on the light, write emails, and read. After so many aftershocks, sometimes I could not even tell whether the earth was still shaking, or it was my heartbeat. I slept with 2 socks, sweatpants and sweater on, so if I had to run out, I could run right away. I kept my emergency backpack, coat, gloves, boots, near the door. I slept close to the table, so I could hide under the table if another big aftershock came. I went over and over my studio apartment and kept all breakables in the safe place, and put down everything that might fall over me.
Ria called at 7AM, asking if I want to go to the supermarket for food supply. She told me there was a loooong line in front of every supermarkets/convenient stores/gasoline stands etc, but we figured, in this situation, it was unavoidable, so we decided to go to the nearest grocery store at 9 AM. And it was then, when I started to see the silent grief. People were lining in front of grocery stores, gas stations, convenient stores, etc, but no one was panicking, nor pushing others. Some of the stores’ glasses were broken but no one tried to steal the food or anything from those open windows. During the black out, all traffic lights were out, but no accident happened. Everybody just slowed down when they reached the intersections and tried hard not to make anything worse. I saw stressful faces, people whose family’s whereabout were not known yet, and the news about the crisis at the Nuclear Plant started to spread, adding the stress to the already stressful situation. It felt so surreal to me. There were people in shelters, towns, houses, streets, destroyed by the mighty Tsunami, there were crisis at the Nuclear Plant, there were people died or missing, yet it was so quite in Morioka. Surreal as most of the buildings in Morioka were still standing with not even a crack, yet everybody was walking in silent with stressful faces.
The grocery store were full with people trying to get everything they needed. I was lucky because at the grocery store where I went to, there was no limitation of how many items we could buy. However, when a gentleman carrying 4 cartons of milk were told by another customer that in the other store, people were only allowed to buy two cartons of milk, he voluntarily and silently returned two boxes of milk back to the rack. Some of the stores were overwhelmed by the increasing number of customers, they had to put some of the items outside, put the price sign, and a box where people can put their money after they took the item. I saw everyone took what they need and put the money in the box, and left. Of course I couldn’t know for sure, but I saw no one trying to leave without paying for the items they took.
I have been living in Japan for five years now, and I know how difficult it is for Japanese to reveal their feelings, up to the point that it sometimes disturbs me. And that day, I finally understood, perhaps there were reasons why it was the way it was with the Japanese. Their personality, cultural background, and behavior perhaps were a result from having one disaster after another for over decades, maybe even centuries. They had to be solid, put everything inside, and just work and be tough. Well, I don’t know, it’s just my theory.
It was D+2 after it all began, and I learned something new that day. About humanity.