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Sendai: Noriko Memezawa

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Our first letters came from 59-year-old Noriko Memezawa, a director at the Miyagi University of Education in Sendai. It is read by the Japan-America Society’s Tami Ishii.

When the level 9.0 earthquake began Memezawa was at work sending a fax. She dove under a desk as she’d been trained to do during evacuation drills practiced almost everywhere in this quake-prone region. Memezawa worried about her husband traveling in Tokyo; her 84-year-old mother-in-law at home; grown children and grandchildren some of whom live with her.

The following are excerpts from her three letters.

KERA Broadcast of Noriko Memezawa Letters:

April 11, 2011

The tremors seemed to go on and on. Telephones and cell phones did not work and as night fell we were unable to find out anything about our families. All we could do was pray and wait for the aftershocks to stop.

I finally walked home on the dark streets. It took two hours to walk a distance which usually takes 15 minutes by car. When I finally was able to see my family’s faces by flashlight, it was a huge emotional relief.

There are long lines of people waiting to buy daily necessities and food from stores and convenience stores.

We can now get gas without waiting in a long line. However, we cannot get much happiness from that when we are surrounded by so much damage and see those who have lost their homes and family.

In the neighboring prefecture of Fukushima, they are still battling the disaster at the nuclear power plant and dealing with the effects of all the negative rumors. There are still huge piles of problems to be dealt with, such as the damage to the marine industries caused by the radioactive water dumped into the ocean, the people who had to evacuate the area, and the need to care for the children who have been traumatized.

Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to share the situation in Sendai. We also really appreciate the fact that we have received so much support and encouraging emails from people.

June 30, 2011

Three months have passed since the earthquake and the roof of Memzawa’s home is still damaged and covered with a blue tarp. But she was counting her blessings. More than 7,040 hundred of her neighbors in Sendai had either died or were missing.

Since the earthquake, I converse with neighbors that I barely knew before. We exchange a lot of information nowadays. I check in with the elders in the neighborhood much more often.

Before the earthquake, I once watched, with my grandchildren-then in 4th and 2nd grades- a TV program that showed children in Cambodia that needed to walk a long distance to fetch water. My grandchildren saw that program and never really visualized themselves in that kind of situation.

However, our situation really changed. After the earthquake, we would have to walk a long distance to fetch water for a long while. We would melt snow and collect rain water to flush the toilet. We learned the importance of water.

I now save electricity much more than before. I make sure I only buy what I need and take very good care of what I buy.

We appreciate all the warm messages of encouragement and supplies we have received from all over Japan and the world.

We have received volunteers from Dallas as well – thank you!

July 12, 2011

At my workplace, Miyagi University, we started the “Education Recovery Support Center”. The goal is to address learning discrepancies among children from the disaster areas.

Both students and staff have been volunteering heavily by providing warm food removal of debris and cleaning efforts at the local schools.

The elementary and high school staffs have faced a lot of issues: experiencing extreme fatigue; psychological stress that comes from recognizing their new reality; the emotional care of children and students affected and much more.

Our motto for this effort is “Let the children recover, and the parents and the community will receive their joy”

By volunteering, our network has grown, and we feel closer to the international community.

I’m afraid that when things settle one day, they will run out of energy and only exhaustion will be left.

We cannot forget that there are so many people who still cannot live normal lives and need to be thankful about leading a normal life and being healthy.

Until We Speak Again,
Noriko Memezawa

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