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My Experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami by Hanon, a Nine-Year-Old Girl

Hanon who is Invited by the “Bring Tohoku Kids to Swiss Camps!” Project to join the Winter Camp 2014 wrote her experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011.
 
What I experienced from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami


It was a clear sky with full of starts on that day. I looked up to see the sky over and over watching many stars twinkling.

On March 11, 2011, I, a kindergartener then, was sitting at Kotatsu, a heated table with duvet cover over it, with my mother after returning from my kindergarten, enjoying decoration on cookies. As I was laying out many colours of lollies and chocolate over the cookies, my mother’s mobile phone beeped very loudly.

“Beep! Beep! Beep!”

“What? Earthquake?” my mother mumbled as she checked her mobile phone. A few seconds later the house started to shake.

“Mummy! It’s earthquake!”

I ducked under the dining table as I shouted. My mother held onto TV. As I looked to the side toward the kitchen, I saw bowls and plates thrown out to the air and corn flakes falling off to the floor like water falls.

My mother managed to join me under the table and cuddled me. We held onto the table legs together. But the house did not stop shaking vigorously. I remember I had to put my hands over ears as I was frightened of big sounds – from broken plates, windows, to books falling and banging on the floor.

When the earthquake slowed down, as we opened the front door, there came another huge shake. My mother and I had to sit down on the spot as we could not keep standing. I closed my eyes tightly because I was so scared, thinking “Please stop shaking!” I did not know what was going to happen and just held on to my mother. 

Eventually the earthquake stopped. It was a very long time. Once we got out of the house, we saw a lot of people at a local park, which made me feel relieved a little.

But there was no time to rest.  The snow started to fall. My mother went back home to pick up my ski clothes. When she came back, she urged me to put them on. That is when I noticed lots of blood on my mother’s finger. Later she told me that she got her finger cut when pushing broken plates to the side on the floor. It looked very painful, and that made me sad.

Later in the afternoon, my father came home from work on foot. We decided that we sleep in the car. Looking at the sky through the car windows while lying in the car, I saw stars shining as if they were about to fall off. It was a very strange feeling. All of a sudden, I remembered and worried about my grandmother who lived alone by the sea. 

She lived in a small town called Shichigahama where we could reach the ocean in 10 minutes by bicycle. I used to go swimming in summer and go for a walk to pick up sea shells in spring and autumn. I heard my parents talking seriously how the town was swallowed up by the Tsunami, they were concerned if my grandmother was taken into the water or if she managed to get away. I realised then, even though I was very little, that something must have happened to her. I fell asleep thinking about her that night.

On the next day Uncle Satoshi, my mother’s younger brother, came to take shelter. My parents and Uncle Satoshi discussed and decided that they go to look for my grandmother. I could not, and still cannot, believe that that peaceful ocean would turn into tsunami and hit the town. I do not recall what the scenery was like between our house and her house, because I kept my eyes shut the whole time. All I can remember is how scary it was to see that the entire area being black, instead of green trees and beautiful blue ocean that I knew of.

When we arrived at the local elementary school, we saw my grandmother walking towards us.

“Mum!”

Screamed my parents and Uncle Satoshi.

With surprise and excitement, I could not even talk. But I ran along with them as I was so happy to see “Granma is still alive”.

Four of us hugged together. We hugged one another a lot.

My grandmother told us that she managed to get out to a higher point of town as her next door neighbour gave her a lift in their car.

We did not know whether our relatives living in the same town survived or which shelter they were staying. We took my grandmother home in Sendai and lived with her for a little while. 

We had food, but we had to use flashlight and lamps because there was no electricity. At night I would shut my eyes and try to fall asleep before I started to feel scared. We had some drinking water, but we had to use water in the bath tub or melted snow to flush toilet using a bucket. I remember how delicious cooked rice tasted once the electricity was back for use. Thinking back those days, I now realize how lucky we are to be able to use electricity, gas and water every day.

After a little while, I learned that our relatives’ houses got washed away by tsunami and two of my uncles and aunts lost their lives. They used to really look after me.

Those relatives who survived lived in a temporary houses after their houses were washed away. My mother told me recently that they have built their own new home and that they are OK now.

At school, I practice emergency drills, and we also discuss emergency issues in the class.

Untill recently, I wanted to forget about the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. But now I decided that I should not forget about it. I will never forget what happened to us, for the sake of those who lost their lives as well as those who are newly coming to this world.

October 2014
Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
Hanon Watanabe

 


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