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March 18, 2011

Tragedy and Recovery

Joe Charlebois

How does one comprehend what is happening in Japan? A huge 9.0 earthquake followed by a mountain of water rushing ashore is difficult to imagine, let alone to understand.


As we have watched on television in horror the spectacle of that tsunami proceeding unchecked against the eastern coast of Japan’s Honshu Island, we will forever have the image of cars, trucks, buses and houses lifted and thrown about like Matchbox cars and Lincoln Logs etched into our memories. The people of those affected areas not only have those same images but are survivors who are left to deal with what remains.


Those who perished were helpless to defend themselves from the immense power of nature’s force. Those who didn’t die are left to deal with the trauma of losing friends and family members, a nearly impossible cleanup effort and the looming aftermath of a potential nuclear disaster.


How have the Japanese responded? The people of Japan, who are in obvious disbelief and grief, have been nothing but resilient.  Their response, instead of panic, was to pull together and look after their fellow man. They have acted with compassion and a sense of maturity rarely seen in similarly affected areas of disaster around the world.


Even though the most severely affected area is somewhat small in comparison to the entire nation, the ripple effects of this catastrophe have already affected all of Japan. Worldwide impacts are being felt as well.


This island nation, which is dependent on much of its resources from outside its borders, is already suffering from food, fuel and energy shortages. The response to these problems has brought out the best in the people. They have waited in lines for upwards of 12 hours for fuel. They understand that they are only allowed 12 items per visit to the grocery store – when there is food on the shelves. They are polite, caring and appreciative.


They are not blaming their government for this disaster – nor should they. This type of tragedy was sudden and overwhelming; it has no rival in modern times (when you include potential nuclear fallout). At the sites of the reactors, attempts are being made to curtail further devastation by brave souls who knowingly are likely sacrificing their lives right now to save others.


This is a nation that is struggling. Its economy has been challenged over the past two decades. Its significance on the international stage has diminished. It has an extremely high rate of suicide among the younger generation. Yet they are survivors.


With all that is going wrong, the people of Japan couldn’t be blamed if they fell apart, but they won’t. They won’t let their circumstances subdue them. They will recover from this tragedy. They need to do so. We need them to do so.


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