One year ago today, I was about to step onto the subway when an alarm sounded. I followed those around me who were running out of the station. It felt like I was on a boat; I couldn't walk very easily as the ground was swaying below me. I had experienced an earthquake before, so I was not very concerned. I assumed it would end within seconds. When I got out to the street level and saw the buildings swaying back and forth, I started to get alarmed...Then as the earthquake continued and those around me were crying and clearly scared, I really started to panic.
I realized very quickly how scary it can be to not understand what is being announced over a loudspeaker. I knew there was an earthquake occurring, but when someone near me said, "Tsunami"...I cannot even explain the fear that I experienced. One man told me, "Go to high ground", but he just stood there holding his little dog. I had no idea which way was to high ground and when I tried to ask him, it was clear he didn't have the English to tell me and I didn't understand Japanese. I tried following the subway line to get to my hotel. This was very challenging and along the way I stopped with a group of people who were looking at a TV inside a store window. It was showing the tsunami. I asked one lady, "Is that here?" She shook her head yes. I had a chat with God that afternoon as I was fairly certain I was going to die.
Obviously, I did not die, but was definitely traumatized. However, I developed a whole new level of respect for the people of Japan. In the midst of a crisis, they continued to be helpful, polite, and respectful. I had already found this country to be a wonderful place, but what I encountered that day and the following days was just amazing. Even though I will always remember the fear of that day...what stands out more to me now is the people and the culture.