One year ago, on March 11, 2011, the world was shaken by news of the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan causing massive damage to homes, nuclear plants, livelihoods. I remember being at school, in the bubble of college academics, halfway around the world from Japan, and hearing about it only peripherally, having friends who didn’t know it had happened at all. It soon became evident the magnitude of this disaster and crisis, so I joined a group of students and faculty organizing to raise funds and increase awareness about the tsunami and earthquake.
Somewhere in the process, we started talking about whether at a school with so much else going all, in a world with so many things happening, if people would remember Japan a few weeks, even a few months, later, let alone one year later. In the wake of natural disasters, there tends to be a large surge of attention and money sent in the immediate aftermath, but building up infrastructure, piecing back together lives is slow. It’s not to undermine those initial efforts or to say that other important events don’t equally deserve our attention, only to note how long the process of recovery is, how important it is that we recognize and remember that.
Pray for Japan, a new documentary directed by Stu Levy (an American living in Japan at the time of the disaster), takes a look at the tsunami’s tragic aftermath and tries to capture the rebuilding process. The film opens on March 14 in select theaters nationwide in honor of the anniversary. Check out the trailer here.
You might also remember the extreme damage to nuclear power plants in Fukushima District that incited worries about a possible major nuclear meltdown, as the reactors’ cooling systems were shut down. CNN reporters recently visited the reactor and emphasized how far there is to go in cleaning up the mess both at the nuclear plant and in the surrounding area. Recently, according to the New York Times, a private policy organization in Japan, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, investigated the government’s response during the nuclear crisis and plans to release a report soon revealing how seriously the government considered evacuating Tokyo.
I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to do one year later, what I could do to help, but at the very least (though it may not do anything and is a little corny) I can remember that it happened, that the healing and rebuilding isn’t over, and send along mountains of respect for the strength that the Japanese have had and continue to have in the wake of devastation and the process of recovery.
[Image credit: National Geographic]