I was finally able to talk to Lisa a couple of hours ago for the first time in 2 days. She was at her grandparents’ house in rural western Japan, which gave me some ease because she was further away from all of the turbulence. But now she is back in Tokyo. She said there are some inconveniences in the city, like periods of energy rationing and less trains, but it is nothing compared to what hit the epicenter of the March 11 earthquake.
Lisa is on schedule to fly out of Narita airport Saturday morning. However, she is concerned Tokyo will be hit with more aftershocks, which have become a constant over the past week. She said there is a 60 percent chance Tokyo will be hit with an earthquake by noon Saturday. Her flight is supposed to leave at 6:40 a.m.
So for now she is safe, but the next 48 hours will be a little tense.
The situation in Tokyo isn’t nearly as bad as it has been portrayed on American news, said Lisa. The media is focusing solely on the devestation and the worst case scenarios, when in reality the people of Tokyo are merely dealing with, as said before, inconveniences. She said people in America don’t realize how far away Tokyo is from Sendai, the epicenter. The distance is 170 miles, which is about the same distance between Des Moines and Kansas City.
I told Lisa from the outside looking in, the situation seems pretty grim. She asked how things are in Philadelphia. I said fine.
“It is hard to imagine everything being fine,” she said.
The shock of the initial earthquake/tsunami is starting to wear off, and the reality of the catastrophic event is settling in. When the earthquake first hit, Lisa was helping guide 150 Wharton students through Tokyo. They were in the subway station, and Lisa’s focus and energy was directed toward keeping the Americans calm.
Now that her duties as Japan trek committee member are over, and Lisa has had time to visit with friends and family, and has witnessed the devestation asserted on her home island, and has heard stories about acquaintances affected by the earthquake.
For instance, one of Lisa’s work colleagues grew up near the epicenter. Her childhood home was completely destroyed. Luckily, the woman’s father was on a business trip to Hong Kong, her mother was away on vacation and her little brother was studying in Turkey. Losing their house pales in comparison to losing a family member.
Lisa said with every aftershock, the people of Japan tighten up, wondering if this is the next big one.
Her biggest hope is that the worst is over. Her second hope is to be on that plane Saturday morning.
“I hate to say it, it feels weird, but if another earthquake does happen, I hope it comes after I leave,” she said.