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Aug 2022
maybe the difference is just
that i can bring myself to talk about it, now,
without my whole body trying to relive it.

maybe the difference passed with the 10 year mark.
and the 11th, as it went by and I only had to blink it away,
rather than spend the whole time trying to think of anything else.

the only thing the rest of the world seems to remember
is the power plant explosion. Fukushima. Early 2010s, sometime --
(and it's almost funny, the way just about anyone at all can count through the major nuclear events in Japan: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima. Make it easy on all those people who didn't get stuck living with the consequences of them.)

I remember, 30 kilometers away from the epicenter,
the way our classroom shook on March 11th.
I remember books falling off shelves,
my classmates and I clutching at desk legs, at each other,
the floor shaking up and down, up and down, not just side to side.

I remember watching the broadcasts the next morning,
2011, and cars floating out in the ocean by Tohoku.
Homes, gone; Tsunami flood gates washed away,
High schools turning into evacuation centers,
Building ceilings collapsing as people tried to run away.

That night in Tokyo, the trains stopped.

Phone networks went down as everyone flocked to use them,
The highways swarmed with cars,
the ground. kept. shaking.

In Tohoku, after the initial earthquake,
after the Tsunami that came up too high,
as people tried to run away fast enough, fires erupted.

And then we watched on the morning news, my family and I --
tired, but safe and sound, far enough away,
as the Fukushima Dai-ichi powerplant erupted,
killing its workers with it.

We, the fortunate foreigners outside the destruction area,
we flew out on a plane, came back a month later.

In Tokyo, where the worst of the damage
was the bent tip of Tokyo tower,
there was a water shortage,
a power outage, or two,
and the aftershocks
through the ground
didn't stop til July.

When I went up to an affected area of Tohoku -- two years later,
All of their dwellings were still temporary.
Their main export of fish, still deemed unsafe.
Their main grocery store, a 7/11 conbini.
Their population half a ghost town,
so I helped plant vegetables.
Watched, the next year, as they gained back some of their boats.
As the seas started to be safe again to fish.
As industry started to become permanent, again.

People came up with a lot of names,
for what happened on March 11th, 2011.
The Great Tohoku Earthquake
The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
The Triple Disasters

For all that I was safe, during it,
I still lived beside those events.
Still know that only now, over a decade later,
are people beginning (slowly) to re-inhabit
that ghost-town of radioactivity in Fukushima.

At 10, there is not much you can do, to stop an earthquake.
Or a tsunami.
Or a fire,
or a disastrous power plant explosion.

But I tried my hardest to do what I could, to help in the aftermath.

At 21, I hit the ground, go dizzy, or blackout
whenever something unexpectedly shakes:
a bridge, a bus shelter, a ladder.

The date is tethered onto me like a broken lifeboat,
something I will never be able to drift away from.

And in a way, I am furious at the world for forgetting.
For daring to look away -- but there are other events.
Other disasters, natural and man-made and in between.
And I can not keep them all scarred across my heart.

But I remember this one.
I'll keep remembering for everyone who doesn't.
And next time, I can only hope to be enough
to prevent some of the loss,
to learn and progress from the past,
until maybe
it never happens again, at all.
Written by
Sam  Tokyo, Japan
(Tokyo, Japan)   
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