Last night I put the finishing touches on all of my rough scans from my most recent trip to Japan. I was planning on posting some today, but clearly now is not the time. Last night I also watched live footage in disbelief as mudslides and tsunami waves demolished entire communities in Japan. Less than two weeks ago, I was there and could have easily been caught up in the tragedy. The news footage was really unlike anything I had ever seen before. Watching nature completely dominate humanity is a very unsettling feeling. It immediately brought me back to 9/11 (also written about here and here) where I was an eyewitness to a man-made tragedy, but regardless of the cause, the point is that colossal events of that sort render us as people powerless. It’s a feeling that I can’t describe to anyone who has not experienced it firsthand. Running for your life, realizing people are dying around you, not knowing what’s happening, what’s going to happen, whether or not you will be there to see it happen…and finally coming to the ultimate conclusion of accepting the fact that you are no different and no more important than any other person who is also running, trying to get out, has a family, friends, and wants to live. That sequence of thoughts ran through my head on 9/11 as I literally ran from the debris of the World Trade Center while it collapsed. To have this realization is transformative. Like I said, it’s hard to explain the severity of it unless you have had it yourself. I’ll be the first to admit that over time, I’ve become less aware of that feeling, and tragedies that haven’t affected me directly…well…they have not affected me directly, and those are the simple facts. Watching Hurricane Katrina unfold was horrible. I spent lots of time in New Orleans as a kid, and I always loved the city, but I was not there during Katrina. The Tsunami of 2004 was hard to comprehend. 230,000 people dead. Again, I was not there, so my level of affect could only reach a certain point. Of course we all felt horrible, but watching something on the news is worlds away from actually being involved.
I guess my point is that I cannot presume to understand what the people in Japan are experiencing right now, but I feel connected to their pain in some small way. It’s a place I have a lot of love for, and just a couple weeks ago I was strolling through quiet, seaside communities with my camera, very much at peace. I can honestly think of few things more terrifying than a massive wave of water, mud, cars, homes, and general debris coming at me with the speed of an airplane. Japan is one of the most prepared and efficient countries in the world, but last night proved even that level of preparedness cannot always provide safety from disasters of this magnitude.
Here in California, earthquakes are part of life. I’ve experienced a few since I’ve been here, but nothing panic inspiring. When it happens we kind of just sit it out and then laugh nervously. It’s a weird feeling. Again, the loss of control is what weirds me out the most. But the truth of the matter is, one day you might wake up and have your whole world turned upside down. The full impact of that feeling has left me since 9/11, but I know a lot of people in Japan are feeling it right now, just like the people of Haiti, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, New Orleans, New York City, and countless others have felt before them. Japan, I love you, and I’m so sorry this happened.