Ten years and still recovering

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10 YEARS AFTER THE QUAKE — San Francisco native Takeno (Chiyo) Suzuki (L) with sons Yuta and Kota, and husband Yukimasa. photo courtesy of Takeno Suzuki

Ten years have passed since the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The coastal towns are almost unrecognizable with new buildings, roads and bridges. When I visit these towns, I am in awe of how they have been rebuilt so quickly. I am again reminded of how beautiful this region and ocean are.

Many of us will be reflecting on the years that have gone by. We will remember the loved ones we have lost. We will continue to move forward thanks to the overwhelming support from people here and abroad. Some will go on with their daily lives after the moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. passed; others will wonder, “What if on that day …,” hoping for their loved ones to return.

Ten years have passed, but there is still no immediate and complete healing for many. It is a roller coaster ride for some, where one day everything seems fine and other days some wonder if it’s OK to be laughing or enjoying everyday moments. But I want to believe, and

I know the future of Miyagi will be bright.

People are creating new ideas, such as land and city planning, and new business ideas are bringing vitality to the area. In pre-COVID times, more visitors from Japan and across the world visited Miyagi to see how our region has rebuilt since that fateful day. Post-COVID, we will be waiting for everyone to return and welcome them with our famous Miyagi hospitality. The younger generation will come up with innovative ideas to help vitalize this region.

For me personally, not a day goes by since March 11, 2011 that I don’t think of what happened. I am reminded everyday when I see our stairwell, how brave Kota and Yuta were when they were only 3 and 1 1/2 years old respectively, walking up eight flight of stairs when we had no electricity.

My body continues to react to the smallest tremors. My body still sways, even if the Earth is not shaking. Some may call this earthquake sickness. My heart stops at the sound of the early earthquake alert system, even if it’s a drill. I still hear the screaming mothers looking over the coffins, remember the smell on the streets and the eerie silence of the towns. I am not alone.

While the future will be bright, we still need to support the people of the Tohoku Region.

As the world turned its attention to the Tohoku Region, and as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I also hope people will recognize that it is not about us or them. This is about each and every one of us on this Earth. Natural disasters occur everywhere in the world, and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire international community. While we may have experienced an earthquake and tsunami, the aftermath and the issues surrounding recovery are something we can all relate to, whether it is a natural disaster or this pandemic.

Take the time to ask yourselves, “Are we really prepared for a natural disaster or a pandemic?” “Am I prepared to protect my loved ones?” And simply reflect on being grateful.

There is no way to express how grateful I am to all of you reading this. No words are enough. But I hope that I can show you my appreciation to all of you by sharing with you our experiences so that we can all be prepared and to be able to protect our loved ones.

Takeno (Chiyo) Suzuki, a former Nichi Bei Times intern, previously served as a co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. She is currently a coordinator for international relations (CIR) for the Miyagi Prefectural Government. In addition to translating and interpreting, Suzuki has worked on various projects to attract overseas investment, promote Miyagi products in the U.S. and corresponding with Delaware, Miyagi’s sister-state. A San Francisco native, she currently lives in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture with her husband Yukimasa and children Kota and Yuta.

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