I am trying not to freak out. I am trying to tell myself that the earth is not moving. It is the still, solid rock that we have built our lives upon. Steady.
But the truth is that it isn't a motionless rock. The Earth is made of plates that move and slide and kill people. Lots of people.
I was on the third floor of Eimei Junior High School yesterday when the wind started blowing really hard. It sounded like hail was tinkling across the roof. Then the windows rattled like they would when we lived near Fort Stewart. Then the building vibrated, like being inside a cell phone. That's when I realized. It's an earthquake.
I felt an earthquake tremor the year I first came to Japan--2009--and it rattled me. We were on the eighth floor of an earthquake-resistant hotel. The hotel swayed like a hula dancer. It started out the same as this one: a sound like things crackling in the wind, thunderous window rattling, and then shaking. The ground feels like it is made of water. It sways and rocks. I was freaked out by the tremor, but it only lasted a few seconds. Zack didn't even get out of bed. The epicenter of the quake was Tokyo--far enough away to barely affect us. It was maybe a magnitude 5. Just a minor inconvenience to the Japanese, who are used to the way tectonic plates creak and groan.
Once I realized it was an earthquake yesterday, I ran downstairs. It was perhaps not the smartest thing to do. But I remembered the way the tremor progressed, how there were a few seconds of calm shaking before the harsh movement began. I knew I had a little bit of time and that the first floor is safer than the third floor. I sprinted down the staircase, barely feeling the movement beneath me because I was going so fast. I ran to the teacher's room and prepared to crawl under my desk, clutching my water bottle.
The lights, suspended from the ceiling for some reason, were swinging back and forth. The quake stopped shortly after I made it to the office. It was longer than the tremor I felt so long ago. The principal turned on the news. The teachers slowly trickled in and stared at the TV. We saw buildings cracking and ceilings collapsing. A shattered glass bus stop. Then they showed the coast of Sendai, the prefecture on the northeast edge of Honshu, Japan's main island. The tsunami crashed onto the beach and flowed through towns. It was black. The flood carried cars and houses that were broken like matchsticks. We saw cars trying to drive away from it. The teachers kept saying Sugoi, which can mean anything from "great" to "large." I took it to be the same as Wow.
There were a couple aftershocks, but nothing as bad as the first wave. No one was injured in Nagano Ken as far as I know. I woke up to a few aftershocks in the night. I had to convince myself that they were real.
I'm trying to be calm, but I must admit that I'm a little shaken. We're making an emergency kit just in case. I don't think that we are in serious danger, but please send a prayer or two our way. And let's all pray for the people along the coast. They need it much more than I do.