The Big One

Trip Start Jul 04, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Japan  , Tōkyō,
Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Big One struck at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time.



Sitting at The Japan Times' sports desk on the third floor of the Nifco Building in Minato Ward, Tokyo, a few minutes prior I was reading an amusing reply to an e-mail I had sent to power forward Lynn Washington of the Osaka Evessa.



Then the floor started shaking, and shaking and shaking ... growing stronger by the second. A few people's voices raised in anxiety, including mine, a sense of nervousness about what was taking place, about where we were going to go. Down the stairs - quickly, to be precise. Single file, basically, rushing as quickly as possible to get out of the building, though no falling glass or TV monitors or parts of the ceiling were seen on the third floor.



Outside, JT employess from the newsroom and other departments gathered near the curb or across the street, seeing a neary building, probably 40 stories, shake violently from side to side. Aftershocks seemed to begin every few seconds.



Then, for a few minutes at least, they stopped. We returned to work, for maybe 15 minutes, with pictures of the devastation starting to appear on the TV from Senadi and other areas in and around Miyagi Prefectures. Then aftershocks were not meek at all; rough, strong jolts of the floor. Down the stairs again, quicker than the first time.



Waiting outside again, we had some small talk, but not exactly the day to exchange pleasantries. It surely felt like The Big One. And that, we learned, is what it was - but most of the big affects were felt closer to Sendai.



The devastation could've been exponentially greater if the epicenter had been in Tokyo.



Well, we produced the early edition of the paper, working diligently, quickly, with plenty of concentration, but often interrupted by another aftershock or three - or was it six -- in a few minutes. Hard to keep track.



The early edition was done. My boss went out for a bite to eat with a co-worker. He came back to the office, mentioned that the trains were all down.



The late edition deadline was moved up to 8;40, roughly two hours earlier than usual. The big new story added for late edition for sports was baseball scribe Jason Coskrey's on-scene account of the earthquake as felt and experienced at Yokohama Stadium, where the Yokohama BayStars and Tokyo Yakult Swallows had their exbition game interrupted violently by Mother Nature in the seventh inning.

With no trains to where I needed to go if I was going to attempt to spend the night at my apartment, I began walking. It was a stop-and-go 3-plus hours walk from the newspaper office, mostly along Dai-ichi Keihin. Thousands of people were making a similar walk, and often farther, in fact. The pedestrians and bikers were orderly and polite and calm. I heard no rude exchanges, saw no shoving or looting. People just kept walking and walking and talking to those around them or keeping quite and soaking up the sheer magnitude of what had taken place.

Taxis and cars and trucks were backed up for as far as the eye could see in all directions on all roads. Poor taxi drivers. But no horns were honkings. No road rage.

People's poise in the face of great uncertainty was admirable and should be replicated.

Credit the local police and fire departments and natinal self-defense forces for organization and strategic cooperation to minimize the damage as much as possible.


Throughout the past 35 hours since the earthquake, I've exchanged dozens of e-mails with family and friends around the world. Tried to use Facebook as much as possible, or Twitter, to reach as many people as posible at once -- like an electronic chain letter. I've been overwhelmed by people's encouragement and support and prayers and concerns, inquiries from family and friends in Arizona, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin,  North Carolina, Louisiana, Massachusetts, California, Cyprus, Hungary, South Africa, Brazil, Luxembourg, Peru, among other places outside of Japan. Within The Land of the Rising Sun, it's been a true challenge to keep tabs on how people are doing. The Basketball Japan League's 16 teams are scattered were near and far for 14 squad's scheduled games on Saturday & Sunday. Mother Nature had other plans; the games were called off, but not before the Sendai 89ers had begun their travels via bus to Niigata for this weekend's series.

Using electronic communication, I was able to piece together a timeline of the team's trip, the fact that it took 11 and 1/2 hours to reach a city in Niigata Prefecture, and then learned of the team's split -- those without families in Sendai remained at Niigata, staying with Niigata Albirex BB team members. That's the story for Sunday's paper.

So, there's a lot of uncertainty in the days to come, and already a number of inquries to our newsroom from the BBC, WGN Radio in Chicago, CNN and other big media outlets.

I shall sign off for now from this site.

But this is a quick rundown on it all.

Though I didn't yet mention about the dozens of aftershocks that limited sleep to about 90 mins, if that, this morning.

Trains were up and running today, nearly at half-speed this morning and on the ride home at full speed. Amazing recovery for Tokyo. Trash picked up today outside our apartment building. A day after the fifth (fourth some say) largest earthquake in recorded history and scheduled Saturday trash pickup takes place. That's amazing, but Japanese efficiency for you.

There was certainly a purposeful rush to stay on top of the news and keep as many people as possible informed about the latest news we knew.

More reports to come.




 



 
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