Like most people, I still haven’t been able to comprehend the staggering toll from Japan’s worst disaster since World War II.
Nuclear radiation leaks, rolling blackouts that continue to put hospital patients and others (especially the elderly) at risk, a critical lack of sanitary water, the long-term displacement of massive numbers of people, and extremely unsafe conditions across hundreds of square miles will claim growing numbers of victims throughout 2011 and beyond.
I almost lost my life many months after the world’s second largest earthquake in the past century.
I was only five years old when the megathrust earthquake hit Alaska. It registered 9.2 on the Richter scale—like 25,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs going off at once. The ocean suddenly vanished around many of the Aleutian islands in the Bering Sea off the southern and southwestern coast of Alaska. Shipwrecks, rusting six-foot-high crab pots, and sea anemones suddenly lay exposed to the sky. Then terrifying tsunami waves up to 100 feet high swept over the islands, destroying almost everything in their path.
A few months later, my father moved our family to Kodiak, the largest of those islands. My father built huge communications towers so the government could alert Alaskans of incoming tsunamis and other potential threats. Of necessity, my dad’s work took him away from home for months at a time. When he returned home, however, he often took us to explore the wonders of the island where we lived.
On one occasion, while playing on a gorgeous but isolated beach on the east end of Kodiak Island, I stumbled upon a strange round metal object about 18 inches in diameter. More than a dozen metal rods protruded from the sphere. I grasped several rods and pushed the object. It haphazardly rolled a little ways. I pushed again and again until I got it rolling non-stop down the beach. Suddenly I heard loud shouts. My parents rushed up and scolded me like I’d never been reprimanded before. In no uncertain terms, I was told never to touch such objects again. I had been playing with a war relic that could have ripped me from limb to limb.
That undetonated explosive is a symbol of the ongoing destructive potential of Japan’s monstrous 9.0 earthquake.
Long after the news services stop reporting the growing numbers of deaths, hundreds of men, women, youth and children will continue to die.
We dare not think the worst is over.
If each adult in America gave $30 to Medical Teams International, Mercy Corps, World Vision, Salvation Army, or another reputable disaster relief agency serving in Japan, we could provide $7 billion in direct emergency aid this spring.
In this terrible season of grief, we can help save lives. So, let’s do all we can.