Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wake Up and Go into a Real Nightmare

Three Weeks and Two Days: "Prepare yourself and make sure your mind is strong, it will not be easy, there will be places and sights that will shock you.., it is not for the weak of mind." These were the things the relief mission organizer noted again and again. "If you can not handle the difficulties you can leave now." Our group collected in a small room for a briefing which readied the team for the next excursion up to the disaster areas. We opened with a prayer, then the organizers warned us of the images which will be shown and the visuals they will describe. We sat quietly as they projected photographs taken by the team that just returned from the Tohoku area. These images were candid, simple and blunt. The carnage was not limited to just a few areas but essentially the entire coastline. For a large part of the drive towns and places along the seaside were completely devestated by the tsunami. One shot which stood out was of an Junior High School. The building was ripped wide open, windows smashed, walls crumbled, and debris as far as the eye could see. We were told that all the children and teachers in the school perished and that their bodies had not yet been recovered. So somewhere in the field of view under the debris they were still there. Again and a again similar images where presented. We were told that death and remains will not be far from any place we go. The lady speaking nearly cried as she described seeing only a human hand on the ground. Then there are the survivors, many of whom are suffering deeply physically and mentally. The ones that lost their homes are at shelters which provide barely enough sustain them. The ones whose homes are still intact, although have roofs over their heads have nothing else. As they are a part of a shelter, no food or support was provided for them. They live amid the wreckage with no electricity, no water, no gas, and nowhere to buy food. Some of these folks wander the streets looking for help. They may walk for hours and hours just to see if a shelter or aid station could give them some relief. The last team set up a makeshift soup kitchen in a parking lot. They prepared about 3,000 meals. It took all day and while doing so, lines formed and people stood patietly for hours from morning to noon just to get a bowl of miso soup. Then once they were done with the lunch serving of one bowl. They went back in line to wait for 3 to 4 more hours for the evening meal of macaroni chicken soup. Some asked if they could eat the food uncooked as they were so hungry and had not eaten for 4 or 5 days. Many in line had been wearing the same clothing from March 11th; the day of the earthquake. These sights and similar stories highlighted the reality of what we will expect. There will be people in a lot of pain. This is all a reality that can be easily overlooked from the safety and security or our comfort zones. But it's time to wake up and help others get through this nightmare. I'll cut short the writing tonight as it's been a long day. I've got a lot to do in order to ready myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Reality can be cold, it can be looming, and although it can seem comfortably out of reach; it's never that distant...


  1. Dear Linh,
    Bless you and thank you for this mission you embark on. Carry my prayers with you, and my love. I will be doing a fundraiser soon for Japan. I cannot imagine what your eyes will see. Your bravery and compassion are an inspiration.
    love you.

  2. Toi,

    Thank you! It's all good. Nothing can go wrong if you are doing something right.

  3. Dear friend, I send you best wishes for courage and stamina, as I know you already have compassion and strength of spirit. I will carry you in my thoughts. Wish to be there with you to help as well.
    May your hands, arms and shoulders grow to help others carry this great burden of rescue and repair.
    Lots of love to you

  4. This post was very moving. Your strength inspires me.