Many across globe don't remember a thing about March 11, 2011
March 11, 2011 was supposed to be a joyous day. It was the first day of my week-long family excursion across the northeastern United States. It also happened to be the birthday of one of my best friends. I had looked forward to the coming of March 11th for a very long time, and woke up earlier than usual in eager anticipation.
Then I saw my grandparents up earlier than usual. They were standing in the middle of the hotel room watching TV with an expression of blank disbelief on their face. “That’s odd,” I thought. “They’re usually up earlier than I am, but certainly not at 4:45 in the morning.” I said good morning. They didn’t reply.
Confused, I hopped out of bed and turned to face the TV. I looked for a second. Then I dropped to the floor in anguish.
“8.8M earthquake and tsunami hits northeastern Japan,” the heading on CNN blared. Waves of water pummeled towns and countrysides into bits and pieces. The live feed showed people attempting to run away by car and by other forms of motorized transport. Very few managed to get away.
I called all of my friends and acquaintances in northeastern Japan to make sure that they were alright. It didn’t work. The receiving lines were dead. I sent emails and hoped that they were all safe. At the time, there was little else that I could really do.
It was a couple of days later that I found out that they all escaped unscathed. Many of their kinsmen weren’t so lucky. The earthquake and tsunami took away a total of more than 15,000 lives and left tens, if not hundreds of thousands of others without homes. Radiation leaked by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was of significant worry; many fled their homes, leaving some towns deserted and overwhelming nearby municipalities with refugees.
To make matters worse, the government screwed up. You would think that they would have learned from the painful lessons taught by the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. They didn’t. They withheld information about the nuclear power plant from the public. They did not anticipate the risk of tsunami damage sufficiently and worked on mistaken assumptions. People who would not have otherwise died became casualties of the disaster.
Nonetheless, there was an immense outpouring of sympathy for the Japanese. Fundraisers were started to help raise money for the relief efforts. Videos on YouTube expressing support for Japan were uploaded. Some even took the initiative to go to Japan and help with the cleanup physically. In the wake of disaster and calamity, the world stopped fighting and started to work together.
That was one year ago. The cleanup efforts are still ongoing. People are still destitute and without homes. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant and the area surrounding it are still being contained. For many, the disaster is still not over.
Despite this, many across the globe who had been so sympathetic one year ago don’t remember a thing about March 11. Are 15,000 lives really that insignificant? Are the lives of survivors really not worth even a thought?
For individuals in Japan and those abroad, it is important to remember those who died. What is even more important, however, is to continue to support individuals who were affected. This is a pledge that we should all make on this first anniversary – a pledge that shows a true commitment to supporting a movement rather than simply a knee-jerk reaction to a global catastrophe.
To never forget not only the deceased, but to support those who are continuing to struggle to piece together a semblance of their former lives. To continue to fight against bureaucratic inaction and call for transparency in government on the behalf of those whose voices continue to go unheard.
Never forget March 11, 2011.