On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island of Honshu, Japan. When the quake struck, the speed of the Earth’s rotation changed by one minute and several seconds, and the Earth's poles tilted slightly to one side. In a matter of minutes, the island moved 13 feet to the east.
Two hundred and thirty miles away in Tokyo, an English teacher from Iowa stood under a doorway drinking coffee. Mary Jo Christensen could see cars in the parking lot sway back and forth on their wheels. In the days following the quake every time a new tremor hit, she kept her sense of humor by listening to Carole King sing “I Feel The Earth Move.” She writes in an email, “It makes me feel a little better about the whole situation.”
“At present, it’s 6 a.m. I just got back from the convenience store,” Christensen writes. “Even now, though the quake’s down to a tremor here and there, people are gathered around to chat. The store was completely sold out of foods — cup noodle, frozen pre-made things, sandwiches — and of course, water, since the city shut off our water at 8:30 last night. I’m not exactly sure why, but since I got news about it before it happened, I was OK. Just ran a full bath for toilet-flushing water, and filled a few old 2-liter plastic bottles with drinking and cooking water.”
This writer, who lives in Sendai, checked on her house every day, and wrote this e-mail when she discovered she had electricity. She also found food and water left in the entranceway.
"We are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling," she writes. "Last night my friend's husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, while others are walking their dogs.
There are many unexpected touches of beauty. First, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains in Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently."
The more intimate the writers’ words, the more universal the impact. These voices are wise, generous and assertive. The calm, clear-headedness of these writers, as their world crumbles, proves that the human capacity is far greater than our everyday world allows…
If terror entered your world by chance, what words would flow from your mind and heart?