Thursday, March 17, 2011


Devastation. It's a word you hear in passing from time to time. "That football game was devastating, I can't believe we lost." "I was devastated when I heard my favorite band was breaking up." It's used casually, easily, without real meaning. It's a word that few understand, that few care to understand.

All images contained within this post are from the NY Times, see more here.
I know that Hurricane Katrina and the world's 7th largest earthquake (and the following tsunami) have very little in common and are not quite comparable but it was the first time that I, personally, felt the effects of real devastation.

Five years later, the city remains torn, battered and areas empty. You see buildings swept away from their foundations. You hear the stories of father and son developing lung diseases as they attempt to collect what little remains from their house which sits under a foot of water - three months after the hurricane. In Japan, many don't even have homes to collect remains from. Everything is gone.

Earthquakes are nothing new to Japan. They are the most prepared country in the world for such a disaster. After all, the island sits just left of the intersection of four tectonic plates. But nothing can prepare a country for an earthquake whose after shocks alone surpass most earthquakes felt in the United States. Besides, steel enforcement can hold a building tall in disaster but no amount of steel will make up for lives lost or family heirlooms ruined or the imminent fear of nuclear disaster.

When I received the call that my home was on fire, I immediately thought of all the things I wanted to save. I thanked God that my camera and memory cards were with me, that Aiden wasn't in the house, that I had spare clothes in the car and somewhere to stay. But I cried at the possibility of losing my dancer mail, my teddy bear, my scrapbook. Silly, simple things. Not everything. I hadn't lost everything. I had somewhere to go. And yet, it felt as if everything was turned upside down.

Perhaps what hurts the most about the continuing disaster in Japan (other than these before and after photos from the New York Times) is that the people have remained calm and steadfast in their beliefs. Anywhere else in the world, disasters have been followed with looting, murders, chaos. In Japan, the citizens remain in lines for their meager sum of groceries outside stores which hardly stand. It hurts to see such a disciplined, peaceful nation facing such a large disaster. In Psychology last semester, we discussed how in Western society, we are raised to place ourselves over the group. Though a group mindset shows itself, often in persuasive tactics, we wish to be individuals, unique. We want to improve our own status wether that hurts those around us or not. While I don't believe that everyone in all Western countries feels and acts this way, it is our cultural norm.

In Japan (and most Asian cultures), things are different. We learned that standing out of the group is not ideal. Their cultural is more homogeous than ours. And it leans itself toward discipline and groupthink. If I had any doubt that this was true, it has been erased from my mind. The absence of violence and robbery in Japan astounds me more and more as each day passes since the disaster. In New Orleans, one single day after Katrina, madness struck. A tourist, Denise Bollinger, snapped photos of looting in the French Quarter and described it as It's insane." In Japan, everyone is working together to make sure that as many citizens survive as possible. I firmly believe that if a country and its people are doing everything they can to ensure stability and safety - then we can do our part to help as well.

A friend of mine, Savannah of Savannah's Savoir Faire, tweeted about a project in the works to raise money for Japan - a blogger's day of silence, For Japan with Love. The project began with two bloggers at Utterly Engaged and Ever Ours and has since expanded to over eighty bloggers. It started with a goal of $5,500 raised for ShelterBox but that total has been almost tripled. At last check, over $14,250 had been raised.

The mission is simple. Be quiet. Take a day as a moment of silence for everyone who has lost their life or who remains missing in Japan. Our hope is that you will recongize those losses not only by seeing our silence but by contributing.

All funds raised through the project will be donated to ShelterBox. The money is then used to send lifesaving supplies to families in devestated countries. Their work is not only being done in Japan but Madagascar and Bolivia as well.  Each box contains emergency supplies tailored to the area and the crisis which is occuring - these supplies include a tent (which can house up to ten people), blankets, a tool kit (with a hammer, axe and more), a stove (which can burn easily available substances including diesel or old paint) and my favorite supply of all? A "smile pack" which provides small toys, crayons, and other fun things to children involved. After the fire, my heart broke for Aiden who was left in a small hotel room with no toys. no video games. Now, I know it sounds silly that crayons are vital after an earthquake but if that "smile pack" can distract a child from even a moment of the crisis around him/her, it is crucial. It gives parents one less worry, it allows them to focus on getting things done and moving forward. It is perhaps the single reason I have fallen in love with the work that ShelterBox is doing. If you care to learn more about the organization, you can visit them online here.

Today, I have said much about Japan. Tomorrow, I will say nothing. Please join me in making a difference for families in Japan, bringing smiles to children, and even saving lives.
For Japan, with Love.

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