7 April 2011
It was the night of the seventh of April, and I had just fallen asleep in our tent. We were camping along with hundreds of other volunteers on the lawn of a local university, which had been transformed into the headquarters for the relief efforts in Ishinomaki. Half an hour before midnight, an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 suddenly hit. It felt as if the earth was pushing me straight up. It seemed like it lasted forever. I’ve experienced earthquakes before, but they have always been sort of a rolling sensation. This time, the earth was pitching up and down, intensely.
I crawled out of my sleeping bag and went outside. A loud air-raid-type siren started to sound, and an announcement was made, alerting everyone to the possibility of another tsunami. Volunteers crawled out from each tent, their flashlights scanning the night. Despite the potential magnitude of the situation, all the volunteers demonstrated the same noble-mindedness that had brought them from all over Japan to offer their service to the tsunami-stricken area. They remained calm and proceeded in an orderly fashion to the third floor of the university building.
In the dark of the university building, we all sat, quietly holding our breath. No one knew what was going to happen. Eventually someone brought in a radio and tuned in to an emergency-information channel. After about an hour, the tsunami alert was cancelled and we all returned to our tents. The epicenter had been near Sendai, but fortunately there was no real damage.