For as long as the first 18 hours after I caught the news flash of the deadly tsunami in Japan early Friday morning (NY time) on my TV in Brooklyn, I was unable to track down my own family members back in Japan, find out where they were when the earthquake and tsunami struck, and whether they were safe.
None of the phone calls I placed to Japan got through – either cell phone or via land line. It was “all circuits are busy” for the whole day. (Who would have guessed that e-mails and skype were the only two communication methods that turned out reliable during this most recent disaster in Japan?!)
I combed through every news page online, flipped through TV broadcasts (in Japanese and in English), and searched “Chigasaki” (a city where my mother lives) via tweets.
My biggest fear centered on the fact that Chigasaki, although located south of Yokohama, is a beach town. My nephew and my mother live not too far from the ocean.
Late Friday afternoon, I finally received an e-mail, from one of my nephews, letting me know that all of my immediate family members were accounted for.
It wasn’t until that evening when my mother, who lives in an assisted-living home, was finally able to reach me on my cell phone. She caught me when I was on a train going back to the Penn Station. I almost broke down when I heard her voice.
Only then did I realize how distressed I was all day long.
As a professional, the minute the news broke, I knew I had an epic story unfolding before my eyes in the nation of my upbringing. Rather than getting caught up with concerns over which I had no power, I went to work covering the story. Personally, “not knowing” all the facts that mattered to me fueled my fear as the day progressed. I’ve been in the news business for a long time, and yet, this was the hardest I’ve ever been hit by the reality that all news is not just local. It’s personal.
Over the last four days, I’ve been heartened by a ton of personal messages pouring in from friends and colleagues, both in the United States and abroad. Their praise for “the preparedness, the resolve and stoic Japanese people,” as Don Scansen, one of our regular bloggers at www.eetimes.com, wrote to me in his e-mail, not only made me stop and think (because I haven’t thought about it for a long time), and certainly warmed my heart. But as Scansen himself acknowledged, despite all that, we all fear that there will be “a horrible toll.”
What’s going on with Japan’s nuke plants is of a particular concern for me, right now. As the daughter of an A-bomb survivor (my mother was working in Hiroshima), I’m the first to admit that I am probably too biased on the issue of nuclear power. But that aside, the actions of Japan’s nuclear plant engineers and designers in their efforts to control the damage in Fukushima and elsewhere has the world, not just EE Times’ tech-savvy readers, in a state of suspense.
As I write this piece, I keep “TV Japan” on the television. I’ve just learned that not all traffic lights in Tokyo are equipped with emergency electricity – a recipe for chaos! Due to rolling blackouts scheduled, some train stations in Tokyo on Monday morning may not be able to handle the crowd. God forbid they should decide to drive.
The clincher came from NHK (Japan’s public broadcast network). The announcer gently suggested that viewers “might want to consider not going to work or not going to school today.”
I had forgotten that I caught my workaholism in Japan.