'Strong in the Rain' - compelling and terrifying accounts of those who survived March 11 disaster

'Strong in the Rain' - compelling and terrifying accounts of those who survived March 11 disaster

TOKYO —

In March 2011 a vast, 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. Fear of such a catastrophe runs deep among the Japanese, and many mentally rehearse where they might be and how they will react should “the Big One” strike. However, most were unprepared for the terrifying scale of this particular earthquake, let alone the subsequent, epic tsunami that devoured everything in its path and the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

“Strong in the Rain”—by journalists David McNeill and Lucy Birmingham—blends history, science and gripping storytelling to bring the immediate aftermath of this triple disaster to life, through the eyes of the men and women who experienced it first-hand.

Following the narratives of six individuals, the book traces the shape of a tragedy and the awe-inspiring heroics it prompted. Among others, we meet David Chumreonlert, a Texan with Thai roots, trapped in his school’s gymnasium with hundreds of students and teachers as it begins to flood. We meet a worker who thought nothing of returning to the Fukushima plant to fight the nuclear disaster, despite effects that he knew might stay with him for the rest of his life.

We read of the mayor of a coastal town who remained devoted to his job and the care of his townsfolk round the clock, without knowing the fate of his own family, his optimism and bravery as inspiring as his problems overwhelming. We learn of the messengers who sacrificed their own lives to warn others of the rapidly approaching tsunami.

In addition to this beautifully-written and moving collection of narratives, McNeill and Birmingham look at the consequences of what Japan endured in 2011. The disaster has had a ripple effect throughout the world, prompting international rescue missions and reactions from a range of NGO and aid organizations; some were helpful, some less so (despite best intentions). Only a few months after the earthquake, Germany committed to replacing nuclear power with renewables by 2022.In the same month, Italy voted not to restart its nuclear program and Switzerland put a freeze on the building of all new plants.

As for the survivors featured in “Strong in the Rain” - there is hope for some. Others will be adversely affected for the rest of their lives by a disaster that erupted suddenly, but whose consequences will, tragically, linger into the future.

LUCY BIRMINGHAM is TIME magazine’s Tokyo-based reporter and covered the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. A board member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, she lives in Tokyo.

DAVID McNEILL writes regularly for the Independent, the Irish Times, and Japan Times, while teaching at Sophia University in Tokyo. His work has appeared in Newsweek, New Scientist, The Face, Marie Claire, New Statesman. He is a board member of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and chair of The Foreign Press in Japan. He lives in Japan.

  • 3

    Leonard Carlson

    Just purchased an electronic copy of the book!

    Amazon has them on sale for $7.95 new, FYI

    Having experienced the March 11th Earthquake firsthand, I can still remember exactly where I was and who I was with. The ensuing months of organized chaos, Operation Tomodachi, aiding the victims, remains recovery, making house calls to people inside the restricted area, seeing Fukushima with my own 2 eyes, will be something I will always remember. The thing that still hurts to this day is the memories of all the children who lost their families and living in shelters with complete strangers. I would love to go back and see the recovery efforts and help out again.

  • 0

    midnull

    ...too bad there aren't any books published on Chernobyl. (cuz you know...it was worse) Can't believe people are making money off of this disaster. I was hoping that the proceeds from the book go to some kind of an afiliated charity...but nope.

  • 0

    lucabrasi

    @midnull

    There are over 1200 books on Chernobyl listed on Amazon.

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • Import and Export Trading Assistant

    Import and Export Trading Assistant
    ECO Resource、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥2.5M ~ ¥3.5M / Year 経験・前給与を考慮の上、要相談
  • Program Assistant

    Program Assistant
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • Recruitment / HR Generalist

    Recruitment / HR Generalist
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • IELTSインストラクター

    IELTSインストラクター
    Berkeley House Language Center / バークレーハウス語学センター、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥3,500 / Hour Negotiable
  • Bilingual Administrative Staff

    Bilingual Administrative Staff
    Star Kids International Preschool、Tokyo
    Salary: Salary negotiable Depending on experience

More in Arts & Culture

View all

View all