This letter was sent on March 13 from a family stationed in Japan–to a friend. The names have been edited out, for privacy’s sake–but we felt like there were many valuable things to be learned about living through a ‘real’ emergency. My hope is that it gives us plenty of ideas on how to become more prepared, and how to help each other–should a disaster strike close to home.
We’re doing “fine” here. Considering what is going on around us. When the first big quake hit, around 2:45 in the afternoon on Friday, I ran to ***** room and grabbed him out of his crib. We’ve had plenty of earthquakes in the 2.5 years we’ve been here, but this one was huge. ***** started crying and calling for me –I got him too and we huddled on the stairs away from windows and light fixtures. The two boys were walking home from school and came in while the house was still shaking. They thought it was exciting. I yelled at them to “GET BACK OUTSIDE!” because I’d just been told if you’re outside, you’re supposed to stay outside! I sat on the stairs praying: “Please protect my kids, please protect my kids, please protect my kids…” It seemed to last forever (around 5 minutes I’ve heard) and then the aftershocks just kept coming and coming. They’re still coming.
They evacuated the hospital and **** was able to come home around 4. [I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have my whole entire family safe and together. And how upsetting it was/is to think of people all over Japan who have family unaccounted for. It’s really hard for me whenever one of the husbands has to leave.]
Since then, the power has been out and we haven’t had any heat or access to phones (to the states) or Internet (except ***** getting one e-mail out from the hospital.) Friday evening we moved our friends in with us (**** and **** and three kids) since they just shipped all of their stuff to the states in preparation for their move in two weeks. It’s been nice to have them around because everyone is on edge and extremely stressed.
Yesterday (Saturday) they opened the commissary (No lights, cash only) and we grabbed some extra food, water and diapers. Since we have the standard Mormon “food storage” I wasn’t too worried about running out of food or water, but I didn’t have any spare diapers so was happy to buy three big boxes yesterday for *****. (And yes, I bought two big cans of hot chocolate. Priorities, people!)
We went to church for a shortened meeting to take the sacrament and get the news today. All members of the branch have been accounted for and we’ve heard that all the missionaries in Japan are accounted
for also. (Big relief.)
The power is now back on off-base which is how I have Internet access right now. We’re at ***** house. Hopefully it stays on.
We were asked at church to see what extra coats, blankets, food and water we can round up to donate
to the Japanese people nearby. I feel heart sick thinking of those who’ve lost homes and loved ones. Although you probably know much more than me, I hear the devastation is extremely great. We were lucky to be so safe on base and grateful our off-base friends and neighbors were okay.
The earthquakes (aftershocks) haven’t stopped and I spent all night last night having nightmares about running from collapsing and buckling buildings. The kids are on edge and tantrums are at an all time high. They keep busy playing during the day, but when it gets dark and we have to ration flashlights and candles it gets extra hard to keep the peace.
A few things I’ve been wanting to tell people and note for the future:
*Get an old school, corded phone. If the power goes out, your cordless won’t work. We were lucky to have a corded phone upstairs which helped ***** coordinate with the Branch President to get accountability of church members. (The phones have worked on-base off and on, but we were never able to get a call through to the states.)
*Speaking of accountability, in an emergency, if you’re going to leave your house–leave a note on the door saying where you are going so when guys from church or work coming looking, they’ll know where you are.
*When the power went out, people off base couldn’t get their cars out of their garage. Turns out there is a special crank to use but most of our friends didn’t have it or know what it was. Luckily ***** had parked outside and was able to get her kids to our house Friday.
*We’ve been cooking with our camping equipment. Note to self: Buy a 20 pack of small propane tanks. We’ve also used our outdoor BBQ (in the cold) and I’m wishing I had a spare tank of Propane for that. (We still don’t have power and don’t know when it will come back on On Base. Estimates have said 24 hours (we’re way past that) to 1 week, to indefinite.)
*Do you have an extra refill of your prescriptions in your 72 hour kit? It’s terrifying to imagine running out of the things you take every day. Also, the thought of my kids getting sick and not having enough Children’s Advil and/or Tylenol made me pretty nervous until I verified we had some of each.
*For ONCE I was glad to be doing Dave Ramsey yesterday when we had plenty of cash on hand to shop at the commissary. But we also have a cash and yen emergency fund hidden in the house for back-up which was
*While I’m making notes to myself: Buy a hand crank wheat grinder and blender! (We have a freezer full of frozen fruit to make smoothies but no way to blend anything.)
*Flashlights are a pain in my butt. All of our stupid Rayovac crappy-**** batteries that I had stored for an emergency, LEAKED! So the flashlights are all slowly dying, being over used by the children, and being misplaced. The best source of light the last two nights has been the pillar candles I’ve had in the cupboard for fancy table settings. They seem to burn pretty slow and shed a lot of light. I’ve gone through 3 and have 1 left. Wish I had a 20 pack of those in my 72 hour pack. It would be nice not to worry about running out. Small, light weight, energy efficient lanterns would be nice too.
*Also, my next house will have a wood burning fire place. This all would have been much easier if we could have been warm.
*Also, I’m buying all my kids a down comforter. We have one on our bed and we’ve been fine at night, but the kids need 20 blankets piled up to stay warm. (Actually, the older boys each have a two layer fleece blanket which is pretty warm, but unfortunately, they’re not very big.)
(Poor little ***** had to spend yesterday in his snow suit to stay warm. The poor little guy must be sensing the stress because he’s been quite out of sorts. He’s always shivering (even when bundled) and very clingy. The kids are all confused and upset but mostly hanging in there. Like I said, it’s been nice to have friends to
keep us company.)
Sorry, I’m rambling on and on but I’ve had all this stress for the last two days and my main way to process is by writing my thoughts down. So I’ve been going a little nuts feeling so disconnected.
A few more random thoughts: *The last two days this thought kept running through my head “All are
safely gathered in.”. I can’t express enough how glad I was/am to have my family around me. Please say a prayer for our many many friends with deployed spouses. This is a very stressful time here and it’s really sucky for them to be apart. Also, please pray forall the Japanese people who are missing or displaced. So sad.
*We were very blessed on base to have running (freezing cold) water. Off base, sewer lines broke and contaminated the water supply they weren’t even supposed to touch it.
*Today we sang “I Need Thee Every Hour” at church. Has a lot of meaning right now.
Okay, there are other people who need to use this computer. Everyone on base is coming off base to try to contact family.
***** husband (Pilot) is at work trying to coordinate rescue efforts so I should go down and help her take care of the multitude of children and get everyone some lunch.
Please pray for us (us being everyone in Japan) and if you feel so inclined, find a way to send some warm blankets to people who’ve lost their homes. Don’t know when I’ll be back on-line again, but hopefully soon.
Thanks to everyone for your concern. I knew (figured) there were people praying for us back in the states and it helped to think about that.