Lisa sent me an e-mail at 3:45 a.m. on March 11, 2011, with the title “i’m safe.”
“There was a large earthquake but I’m safe. Lova ya, Lisa.”
That was the extent of the note, but it was enough to send me on a frenzy of web surfing.
By now we have all seen the devastation of the 8.9 earthquake that struck northern Japan last week.
Lisa was in Tokyo on her school trip. She was part of the committee that planned a weeklong trek for 150 Wharton students. The earthquake struck two days before they were supposed to return to the States.
Even though Lisa had sent the e-mail declaring her safety, I tried to reach her on the phone. Unsurprisingly, I repeatedly received a message, sometimes in English sometimes in Japanese, that my call could not be completed as dialed.
By the time I reached work, I had received numerous e-mails, texts and facebook messages from friends and family inquiring in regards to Lisa’s safety. All I had was an e-mail sent 5 hours earlier.
Finally, by 9 a.m., I reached Lisa on the phone. She was still safe and sound.
She had just stepped off the subway train in Ginza when the earthquake struck. The epicenter was nearly 200 miles away, so Tokyo was not hit with the same force as Sendai. Lisa said the ground shook, but the tremors weren’t much worse than a regular earthquake.
“The Americans are kind of freaking out, because it was their first time, but for everybody else it was just another earthquake,” she said.
One American student’s mom called incessently, insisting that Tokyo was the epicenter and that her daughter was in immediate danger.
While the students were initially out of harm’s way, transportation was another matter. It is not known when Narita Airport will begin flights again.
Meanwhile, the nuclear plants are in imminent danger, and radiation is a real threat. In addition, Lisa was told by a classmate there is a 70 percent chance Tokyo will be struck by an earthquake this week.
There was finally an inkling of concern in her voice.
Lisa had planned to stay a week after the trek ended in order to visit with relatives. She is visiting relatives in rural western Japan for the next few days, which makes me feel a little at ease.
She is looking into finding a flight out of a western airport, rather than take her chances with Narita. She is supposed to be back in Philly this Saturday.
It will be a relief to have her home.