May. 19th, 2011

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During my first trip to Tohoku with the tsunami-relief group, we drove into the coastal town of Onagawa. After working in Ishinomaki all day, seeing the destruction there, I wondered how it could possibly get any worse. Needless to say, it did.

Onagawa is a city nestled in a kind of valley, in an inlet on the coast. (Forgive me if I'm getting my earth science terms wrong, ha ha.) Because of the way the mountains sit, the tsunami hit the city even harder than most other places. I'd say the water was 6 to 8 stories high.

The word that comes to mind when walking around Onagawa now is "Necropolis." Complete and utter destruction. No one lives there any more. There is nothing our group can do to help. All that can be done is to dynamite what is left, and rebuild anew. IF anyone even wants to rebuild.

Because of the location's geography, the water was condensed in a rather small area. As we drove through, everything looked perfectly normal at first. Then we rounded a corner, and there was just... nothing. Nothing but twisted metal and busted concrete. 4-story concrete apartment buildings had been pushed over, their foundations still attached. All that was left of homes were a few floor tiles which managed to hang on.

There is a hospital on a high hill. I'd say the hill was about 5 stories high. This was supposed to the the town's evacuation spot during a tsunami warning. However, the water came in so fast and so high that even this spot wasn't safe. The first floor of the hospital was washed out. Only people who lived on, or ran to, even higher ground survived. I stood in the parking lot of that hospital, looking out on the lovely, calm sea, and wondering how in the hell that beautiful water could do what it did.

It was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life, but, though it sounds strange, I'm glad I had the chance to see it. It was mind-blowing, perception-altering, and well... cliche as this sounds, it was life-changing. I truly appreciate everything and everyone in my life now. Don't sweat the small stuff, guys. Take care of your loved ones while you can.

Pics of Onagawa this way. )

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January 2012

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