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An Earth Shattering Experience in Osaka

On the evening of Monday January 16, I was thinking about whether I was going to wear a skirt or jeans the next day, that I had to take the early train--7:12 or 7:20-- because I had to do research for the Model UN program, and that I HAD to remember to return  my friend's CDs.

When I woke up the next morning, everything was shaking so hard, I couldn't understand what was happening. It was like being on an amusement park ride that's going too fast; you want it to stop, but you don't have any control over it--and you can't breathe. I was so scared that I curled up in a little ball in the middle of my bed and prayed nothing would fall on me. I thought the roof was going to fall, and I was going to die. When it finally stopped after what seemed like 2 minutes but was actually only 30 seconds, I could hear my mom and my bother Charlie yelling for each other and my dad yelling for all of us--he had been downstairs. I was still scared. I tried to get off the bed, but there were things in the way.  I heard them yelling for me, but it didn't really register because I couldn't figure out how to get to the door. The sun hadn't risen yet, and it was pitch black. All of a sudden I panicked and yelled for my dad to open the door because I thought that maybe I would never get out. My dad opened the door, and I stepped on everything in my path and finally got out of the room. My mom, dad, and Charlie were in the hallway, and in order to get out I had to lift up the hall dresser so that Mom and Charlie could get past and down the stairs. All four of us moved down to the basement, where there was an emergency light on. We stayed there for an hour or so, until it got light.

I didn't really realize the seriousness of the earthquake until I went outside. Before that, I thought perhaps I would just have to go to school a little later, perhaps 10 or 11. Hah! I went outside and the little shrine across from our  house had almost completely collapsed. My father and a couple other people in the consulate went to the Consul General's house to check on them. They were okay, but because they lived in an old house, it was really unsafe--cracked walls, all the windows and a couple of walls were gone, and all of their stuff was trashed--so they are living with their next-door neighbors..

The rest of the day was kind of surreal. Our cable was working so we saw the damage the earthquake had caused. I took pictures of everything in the house, and we tried to clean it up as best we could. Throughout the entire day, there were about 60 aftershocks. I think the highest magnitude reached up to five on the Richter Scale. I got in touch with a lot of my friends and found them okay. It was a very shaky, uncertain day, and several times my mom and I cried. Charlie also was very worried. We did get some electricity and heat (electric heat) but no water. We thought that the water would come on in a few hours. Hah!  With all the aftershocks and all the rubble outside our house, it was a hard day for me, and my nerves were shot.

That night was REALLY awful. I went to bed at 1:00 am because my nerves were still shot, and my stomach wouldn't calm down. Every 2 hours there was another strong aftershock, and I barely got any sleep. I woke up at 6:30, and we had a meeting in our livingroom with all  the people on the compound. We talked about problems with sewage, water supplies, American citizens who could be injured or dead, people on Rokko Island, and other things like that. My father and three others decided to try and make it in to the Consulate in Osaka to get the phones open so that Americans could call in and ask questions and they could coordinate rescue efforts. He had to walk 5 kilometers to the nearest running train station. Then he took the train to Osaka along with other, more desperate Japanese people. He was very busy at the Consulate, and he stayed the night at a hotel in Osaka--with running, hot water and ROOM SERVICE. He stayed there for 6 nights!

That second day (Wednesday, January 18) was worse than the first day because it was so sad watching the news. We had already called our family, but I imagined that they must have still been pretty worried. They showed lists of the dead people on TV. My mom and I just sat there with tears rolling down our faces watching people dig around their houses for valuables; huddled together for warmth in the school gym; the lists of dead people, mostly elderly, but occasionally there would be a mother and her baby and two junior high school sisters. It was all so sad. People down the street from us have died; I had spoken to the woman a couple times. A little girl down the street from the Consul General also died when her bedroom was crushed.

That night I was so tired that I slept through the whole night--from 11:30 to 7:00. Thursday, January 19 was probably my most emotional day. On TV that morning, I watched an old woman being pulled out of her house by firemen. She had been trapped there since the earthquake, and she was crying and clutching a fireman's hand and saying "Thank you" over and over. Tears rolled down my face; it seems that just about anything now makes me cry. I wasn't hysterical or anything by far; I guess I was just really sad. I called everyone I could from a pay phone that day. It was very hard to call on residential phones because all of the lines were usually tied up. I got through to all of my friends, and I found that most were being evacuated. I never got to say goodbye to a couple of them.

We flushed our toilets with pool water and boiled pool water to wash dishes, drink, and take baths. We had a lot of food stockpiled because of our trips to the base. Marines from the nearest naval base used a pump truck to pump water from the Consulate in Osaka to the compound here. So, even though the rest of our city, Nishinomiya, didn't have water, we did.

Things got better, and we finally got city water. On my way to school, I saw ruined houses everywhere, but I guess I got pretty much used to it. I'm really glad I stayed.


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