The world's gone mad this past week. Did you notice? I guess you'd have to be living under a rock to not have. One of the biggest events was the double-horror unleashed on tiny Japan: a massive tsunami following upon the heels of a 9.0 earthquake, Japan's worst since 1923, and one of the five worst earthquakes on record since scientists started documenting them in 1900. The devastation is so fierce that we don't yet know how many are dead. There is talk of entire villages wiped out. Thousands dead or at least missing. Boats sitting on tops of houses. Cars sitting inside of trees. Dead bodies floating up on shore. Buildings and houses totally collapsed. A nuclear power plant on the verge of blowing up and spreading radiation as far as California. A half-million people homeless and displaced. Citizens without power bringing snow down from the mountains in containers for water consumption. Word has it the Japanese government is deliberately holding back information on the tragedy so as not to further cause panic to the people and drive them to despair. The Emperor of Japan, Akihito, made an unprecedented appearance on Japanese television in order to shore up his people's courage and to present them with a message from his heart: "Don't give up hope". Through it all, the Japanese people have displayed to the world the most extraordinary peacefulness, dignity, honor, and integrity--at every turn.
So this installment is in honor of Japan. I hope you will take some time to enjoy the beautiful. heart-warming, and life-affirming stories the Japanese people have given us in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy.
- The "Fukushima 50": Not Afraid to Die. The main nuclear power plant located in the eye of the disaster is in Fukushima. All staff have evacuated the plant and its surroundings. A team of 50 have remained and refuse to leave, taking turns relieving each other in shifts to help keep the reactors stabilized. A Japanese official who is friends with one of the 50, stated that his friend told him, "I'm not afraid to die. This is my job." This team is risking their lives to stave off an explosion that could spread nuclear poison as far as the coast of California. The members of the team of 50 are "swallowing" enough nuclear radiation on an hourly basis to last the lifetime of a single person. It is said that the amount of radiation they are consuming every day is equal to you or me getting an X-Ray every hour. Profound heroism.
- Touching Reunion Videos. Each day thousands of people are searching for family members, children, co-workers, and spouses who are lost or dead or among the half-million displaced persons. This piece shows some videos of people who have searched and have found. The two that touched me the most: The soldier with the Japanese Defense Forces who found a 4-month old baby alive in the earthquake rubble. He stated that at first he ignored the sound of crying because he believed it impossible, and therefore a mistake. But when he heard her small cries again, the soldiers began to dig. They found the infant wearing a pink bear suit. The soldiers have credited the baby with giving them a new drive and urgency in their rescue efforts. PHOTO OF BABY AND SOLDIER IS IN THE LINK--DON'T MISS IT. I guarantee that rainbows and kittens will shoot out of your eyeballs when you see this adorable photo. The other video that touched me deeply is of the owner of a sake' company who was trying to locate his lost employees. He managed to find 22 of the them but was determined to keep searching for others. The video shows him finding a few more and weeping upon encountering them. Let me tell you, as someone who has spent time in Japan and knows a fair amount about the nuances of Japanese culture, it is nearly miraculous to see a boss crying in front of his subordinates. You. just. don't. see. this. happen. Watch the video. It is precious.
- The Emperor of Japan: Don't Give up Hope. Emperor Akihito, age 70, extended a heartfelt message to his people and joined them in their suffering. It is the first time he has ever been taped for television. EDIT: A friend living in Japan wrote this: Although reportedly urged by advisers to move to a safer city, the emperor and his family declined and will stay in Tokyo in order to reassure residents.
- The Extraordinary Orderliness of the Japanese People and Japan is Not Haiti or New Orleans. The world has watched every passing day as the people of Japan have faced struggles and challenges that might dishearten the strongest of humans. But not once have we seen rioting, looting, rapes, murders, complaints, chaos in the streets, wailing and beating of chests, not even pushing and shoving! The Japanese people have given the world a study in dignity, honor, and integrity, and made themselves an example of humanity's greater self. EDIT: My friend in Japan comments (and I agree 100%): "As for the absence of looting, I have no doubt that if bars of gold were found strewn among the wreckage, rescue workers would carefully collect, clean and polish them and then diligently search for the owner or the owner's survivors in order to return the entire find."
- In Japan Even the Dogs Have Honor. Whether you're an animal-lover or not...but especially if you're an animal-lover...you will adore this video of a dog in Japan who refused to leave his injured friend. I later read that both dogs were rescued, tended to, and are doing fine. This video is quite amazing and I'm not one who's into dog videos! UPDATE to this story here.
- Japan is Not Without Friends. Of course, we cannot forget the outpouring of love and compassion from around the world, as international agencies rushed to offer relief and disaster aid, and mobilized teams. Among the most impressive was Israel, which contacted the Japanese government to offer aid one hour after the earthquake hit. Israel arrived in Japan 3 days after the tsunami, and was on the ground providing services, along with Jewish mission teams from America. What makes this especially amazing is that just days before the earthquake struck, the Japanese government had issued an official statement condemning Israel for building homes in the so-called Palestinian Territories. Lucky for Japan, the good people of Israel don't hold grudges. Numerous other countries have either offered support and are continuing to mobilize, or are already on the ground in Japan. However, at last check, the 57 Islamic nations that make up the OIC are noticeably absent from any offer of help. However, I did read one bit that said Iran has extended an offer. This is not confirmed by any Iranian presence on the ground. Japan and Iran do have diplomatic ties (I know, weird, right?). Perhaps Japan should consider forging new friendships with nations such as Israel. Just a thought.