Friday, March 7, 2014

3/11/11 DISASTER AND A LOVE STORY~

3/11/11 SENDAI, JAPAN - DISASTER AND A LOVE STORY (March 7th, 2011 Sendai, Japan)

 “Two are better than one.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up...” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10)
“God's precious gift of friendship brings two lives, two souls together... Let's their spirits touch and meet, teaches them to grow and reach, helps them both to be the very best that they can be.”~Thorns & Thrones by B.J. Hoff

We met February 3rd, 2011.  I hesitated to write about how he came riding into my life on a bolt of lightening and captured my heart since I am so tired of stupid crushes.  He was the first I met of the new batch of teachers coming in this year.  I was sitting alone at a table and he sat down across from me in the school cafeteria.  He looked at me so deeply I wondered if I knew him from somewhere??

The Sunday after he arrived, I saw him at the back of the bar where we gather once a week for a small family-like church service in Japanese with an English translator.  His original intention was to go to a much larger church but his contact wasn't home so he came with another friend to ours.  Right away our pastor noticed he seemed to know what he was doing around instruments and got him to volunteer for next Sunday playing in the worship band.  Overhearing that I snagged him for our own little fellowship that evening.  From the moment we began practice, I was ... ?!! There wasn't any other place I wanted to be in the whole world.  I'd felt quite happy and completely right to be doing exactly that for the rest of my life!!!  Is there a word for that feeling?  No.  I dunno if there's such thing as a cupid but if so.... they sure did a good job!!!! I'm almost embarrassed to say so!! Jacob was taken with me too... and SUDDENLY we are together after all these years of waiting.

We were FAST friends... We went on walks and poured out ours souls to one another. It was so sudden we both were a little taken back.  A little afraid.  On a cold Sendai night after a long walk, Jacob invited me into Freshness Burger and asked me out :)  It went something like, 

“So, I'm guessing you're feeling the same way I'm feeling about you?" (pause) (knod) "Then we might as well go ahead and start dating!  Dinner's on me!” (^ ^)(^ ^) <---(Japanese emicons – two very smiley faces)

God seemed to give His stamp of approval.  I told Jacob about a song that had really been impacting my life at a sad time.  Making a desperate attempt at guitar I tried to teach it to others but finally gave it up for the sake of humanity, “Take My Hand And Walk” by the Kry.  It just so “happened” to be his FAVORITE song of all time!!!  Ya right!  I can hear you saying it too!  Truthfully though, he had been practicing that song for 12 years to get it down perfectly and now he can play it pretty much exactly the way it was written.  I think he even called the guy who recorded it and asked him what guitar he played!  Ya!  Insane. We tried to play and sing it together but I was too shy to sing and suddenly very self-conscious (+ +) <---(Japanese emicon ‘I’m dying of embarrassment’ face)!  He sent me a couple of song attachments by Sara Groves, “You Can Never Lose My Love” and “Remember."   I listened to his songs before going to visit my three friends later that night.  One friend unknowing of the significance gave me that very CD with both of those songs on it that very night...!


.......

MAR 11th, 2011: 311 DISASTER STRIKES SENDAI, JAPAN
(March 11th, 2011)  9.0 earthquake, tsunami and radiation disaster hits Sendai, Japan.  I had just finished teaching kindergarten and had walked down the hill to my small apartment.  I was on my knees asking God to forgive me for being so irritated with one of my little boys who threw another temper tantrum today.  Little did in know I would never see my children again.  Before I could finish i felt the tremors and ran for the flight of stairs leading to the parking lot.  I had a hard time keeping my balance.  I couldn't stand so I went to my knees.  It felt as if I were in a nightmare.  I cried out to God.  Even the pavement was moving in what it seemed like waves.  Suddenly it began snowing like ash from a volcano, thick and sideways.  Then it turned to freezing rain.  It is not uncommon to snow in Sendai but this was a very strange weather phenomenon.

When I could get up I went to the Immersion building close to my apartment where others were standing shivering in the cold or perhaps from shock.  Quite a few were traumatized and at least a couple of the newer teachers were hysterical.  Jacob came running down the hill to find me.  He and other teachers had been holding a giant tarp over the remaining daycare kindergarten children in the playground to keep them from getting sick in the freezing rain.  No one was injured seriously.  I heard one child had blood on his head from being hit by something but they were okay.  We were thankful that it was between kindergarten and the after school clubs so there wasn't a full school of children there terrified and separated from their families.  Likely there would have been some serious injuries in that case.

When the quake hit Jacob was running out of one of the big school buildings from the second floor with plaster and things falling around him.  A Japanese friend was with him and when he felt the first tremors he went to the classroom door to slide it open as a precaution.  When his hand reached the door he shouted back,

"Let's go! NOW!!!" and flew from the room with Jacob hot on his heels.

Jacob injured his ankle jumping off of the last few steps which still hurts him to this day.  When they reached the playground they could see another friend running and falling and stumbling his way along to the horse barn where the horses were frantic.  We had no idea there was a Tsunami coming.  Apparently, the waters stopped two miles short of us and then stretched past us on both sides but we did not see the waters.  Our school is on a hill.  We could see a strange cloud forming off in the distance that seemed to be lingering... later we heard it was from a nuclear plant not far away.

Almost all of the teachers at our campus decided to sleep together for about three or four nights in the Immersion building.  It is built very strong. The aftershocks kept coming and coming having no mercy on tired bodies through the night.  I became very sick and developed a serious case of bronchitis, and perhaps pneumonia.  MeySen Academy School family and staff were very gracious and compassionate.  They fed us so we didn't have to stand for hours in grocery lines in town and lent money to those who wished to evacuate until the radiation threat blew over.  Our principal, Daniel Fanger, kept in close contact with us and made sure everyone was safe and cared for.


Those of us who did choose to evacuate north to the American Air Force Base in Misawa aided in a large operation to send clothing, food and supplies for the destitute and suddenly homeless in Sendai.  Sendai
airport was gone.  Destroyed.  We could not believe what was happening.  We felt sick to watch any reports on television (we have not watched a full report to this day).  One day you think everything will always be the same and then it is torn from you.  After we left we heard Samaritan's Purse set up operation from our school to help the suffering.  Even the MeySen school buses were used for transporting relief supplies. 


I've never been so physically sick in my life.  I was burning with fever and began having gagging and choking fits during the night.  Jacob and another friend would jump up from their sleep to help me.  A kind doctor at the base gave me medicine. 

The first time Jacob and I held hands was when we were leading a get together at the base.  There was a large group, around 40, and some guests too.  We all decided to pray so we held hands in a circle.  I was standing next to Jacob !  He seemed affected too as we both realized it.  We expected to return to school from Misawa after a week, but the US Ambassador was very adamant about how dangerous the radiation was and strongly urged us to all leave the country.  We could still feel the tremors hitting Misawa.  Jacob has a relative who is a nuclear expert who also urged us to leave immediately.  I followed Jacob's decision to leave and we planned to return when the radiation threat cleared.

Jacob tried so hard to get us tickets but they were escalating off the map!!  At one point it was over $5000 ONE WAY to get to only Seattle and we wanted to go to Pennsylvania to his parents.  We heard a friend of a friend had to pay $9800 one way!!!  Jacob was beside himself.  He was so upset he swore to the air-force guy in charge of the free 5-minute phone calls.  The guy understood though and gave him a big hug.

Jacob's mom, 2am her time, was able to find us tickets to Hawaii for $1600 a piece.  We jumped on that.   While we were waiting 18 hours in Tokyo airport to get to Hawaii some people with a big TV camera interviewed us.  Jacob and I hadn't told anyone but our parents about our new-found relationship and were keeping it a secret to surprise everyone... Well, so much for that because we were all over the globe when it was broadcast on National television!  Our friends and family in Canada and America were so shocked to see us appear on their TV screen (interview link below).  For one, they were desperate to hear of our well-being since it was next to impossible to contact us and they were very curious about us being together :)

.......

It felt surreal walking off that plane into Hawaii.  Standing there blinking stupidly in our big boots and warm winter coats the best I can do to describe our shock was almost like we had been time warped from a different planet and we were watching ourselves in a movie.  People there must have thought we were from a different planet too :)  We were relieved to stay with a friend's grandparents, Surfing the Nations, and in the studio apartment of a dear, new-found, Hawaii'n friend during our short 10-day stay there.

One very special day on Laniakea B
each where the big sea turtles come in Jacob got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  We kissed for the first time as a big rainbow stretched the eastern sky!  I'm convinced time stood still as I watched him gently slip the beautifully hand carved plumeria Hawaii'n wedding band over my finger.  A sweet lady from Hawaii we didn't even know just gave it to us after hearing our story and praying with her one day!



 


When we finally made it to Jacob's parents we began our wedding preparations.  We bought a Tracker from Jacob's best friend that used to be Jacob's brother's and drove around town with the top off.  We shared a gelatti in the backseat.  It was romantic and fun driving to the drive-in theater in town!  There was a rainbow that day too~

My friends that remained in Sendai sent me the wedding dress that I had brought with me to Japan but had to leave behind during the evacuation.  I never expected to see it again!!  They sent me my Cinderella shoes and my other beautiful dress too.  So sweet.  That was our first wedding gift :)  I did not expect to get anything back from Japan because it is sooooo expensive to ship things and I figured it wasn't worth it I guess.  Besides I was too happily “in-love” to care!
One day Jacob was leading me through a big field at one of the camps he used to work at.  We looked down and to our surprise saw an American quarter in the middle of nowhere!  Right there next to it a foot away was another ~it was Canadian!  We looked all around and found no other coins.  We smiled and laughed and thanked God for sending us His blessing.


THREE TORNADOES STRIKE PENNSYLVANIA
Two months from fleeing the 3/11 disaster in Sendai not one but THREE tornadoes touched down in and around Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania which has never happened before!  M
y bridesmaids were almost all there for the wedding when Jacob suddenly shouted for us to run! Fighting the elements we raced across the lawn into Nana and PapPap's root cellar!  The strong winds were throwing down very large tree branches and one the size of a medium tree fell right next to our tracker!  It was quite a scene with all of us drenched and squished into one tiny room like a can of sardines.  What drama would follow us next our family teased!


Because Jacob is American and I am Canadian we had two weddings.  One in Pennsylvania May 28th, 2011 and one on St. Joseph Island June 4th a week later.  There wasn't a dry eye in the place when my father reached out his hand to the people as he was wheeled down the aisle to give me away that day.

“Many waters cannot quench love.”  ~Song of Solomon 8:7

 
We miss our Japanese friends and loved ones dearly and never forget to mention them in our prayers.  Every Christmas we make a Japanese Christmas cake and remember our times spent together.  May we meet again~ and may the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.




Some Sites regarding 3/11/11
http://www.songlyrics.com/kry/take-my-hand-and-walk-lyrics/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spOG3a62kMI
On-line articles https://www.meysen.ac.jp/files/Friends_156en.pdf
http://www.meysen.ac.jp/files/Friends_152en.pdf

http://www.misawa.af.mil/photos/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=5323&page=5   -pictures of our group at Misawa American Air Force Base March 15, 2011
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/japan-quake-confusion-in-aftermath-13164596  -short blurb of us being interviewed within this broadcast




You won't believe this but just now as I'm editing this and am coming to a close the random "Psalm of the Day" at the side of this blog was: "He sent from on high, he took me; He drew me out of many waters" ~Psalm 18:16.  I read a similar verse randomly the night before we gave our testimony of our account of 3/11 at SIM, "Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him" ~Psalm 32:6.



We were stunned upon seeing this map of what happened that terrible day.  The arrow points out the location of our school.  The green lines are the tsunami waters.




PARENTS EDITION:

How exciting! I was just talking to a man in church about your story. Was telling him how I couldn't sleep and at 1:30 in the morning I felt compelled to Google for the phone number for the Air Force base. When i did the person who answered the phone knew who Jake was. What are the odds???  Also, how I didn't think I would hear from you for a long time after the tsunami and within 4 hours Jake was able to email a simple 'We're safe'. I cannot give words to what those 2 simple words meant to Dad and I.    And I told him about a lady who contacted me through Facebook that she was a parent of a teacher in Sendai and that her in-laws lived in Honolulu and they would pick you up at the airport!!  The man at the dry cleaners who gave us a big price break to clean your wedding dress. Being on national TV from the Tokyo airport and being able to see you in person! How friends and family helped pay for airline tickets. So many God things! ~Mom Tritt

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