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  • Writer's picturevillimeymist

9 years since the earthquake

Some of you might not know but today marks 9 years since the giant earthquake in Tohoku region in Japan.

It might not be news to you. It probably didn't even affect you.

It affected me, though.

Because I was in Japan at that time.

I still remember it vividly, like it happened yesterday.

I was an exchange student at a university near Tokyo. March was basically vacation time for most Japanese students as well as us, but since I was pretty active health-wise, I went to the school gym almost daily (mostly because it was free). I had just finished my weight-lifting routine (the only girl at the gym, mind you) and was doing my stretches against one of the pillars when I felt something.

Something was shaking. I wasn't sure at first, so I looked around and asked one of the guys, "Jishin (e. earthquake)?"

He nodded and gestured for me to follow them outside. I did, and that was when I actually felt the earth shaking.

Now, I'm from Iceland, and we get our doses of earthquakes pretty often. So I'm used to it.

But not this one. While Icelandic earthquakes are more like pounding, the Japanese ones are like waves. And that's what I saw (and felt) while outside, surrounded by shaking school buildings that shook like a tsunami was crashing on them.

My phone didn't work, but thankfully the internet did. I was able to send messages to my husband and my family that I was all right through Facebook.

The trains had stopped and I had to take three different trains to my apartment, so I was stuck at school campus. Luckily, one American student offered me to go to her apartment to change. And that's where we watched in horror the disaster in Sendai through her small TV. It was unbelievably surreal, seeing the houses getting washed away by that huge tsunami. I was scared because I had friends in that area that I had befriended the year before. I later found out that they escaped the disaster.

I ended up staying with my British friend, Claire, at the international dormitory. I didn't get much sleep because there were so many after-shocks and we were all prepared to jump out and leave, if necessary.

The next days were pretty much the same. A lot of after-shocks, day after day. I thought I had gotten used to them. I was wrong.

One night when I was going to sleep, there came a big one. The apartment shook. That was the last straw. I couldn't be brave anymore. I cried out hysterically. I didn't feel safe in Tokyo. So my husband and I fled to Kyoto. We took the first shinkansen there the next morning and stayed there for 10 days.

The difference of being in Kyoto instead of Tokyo was huge! They had not been affected by the earthquake at all, so stepping on the ground there was amazing. The ground wasn't moving like it had been in Tokyo.

We Icelanders weren't forced to go home but we always had the option if we wanted to. A lot of my American friends were forced to pack their bags and leave.

All in all, it was definitely not a fun experience but it's an experience that I value today. It taught me a few things of what to do during crisis. Most of all, not to panic and to help each other out.

I think that's something we need to think about during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Don't panic

2. Don't think solely of yourself. Think of others and be mindful of them.

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