When I was four years old, Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano in the Luzon region of the Philippines, erupted. Along with the eruption came a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated a majority of localities in the Philippines, leaving 100,000 people homeless. It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century.
I remember that earthquake quite vividly. I was too young to be scared, but curious enough to wander outside as my father ran after me, yelling in panic to get back inside.
I remember pausing curiously at the sight of my driveway cracking in half. I remember everything shaking violently, getting dizzy. I remember my father scooping me up, tersely handing me to my nanny, and being tucked safely in a closet under some sturdy shelves in an effort to protect me from any pending damage. Of course, I wasn't pleased at the time. Like, really, why am I in a closet? Are we going to play?
Clearly, I was too young to have any common sense. Little Barbara was also quite sad when, two days after the earthquake and volcano eruption, no one came to her 4th birthday party. A natural disaster deterred my little friends from RSVP-ing, you know?
I remember my mother getting home the night of the earthquake. Petrified. I remember hearing her recount the story of hiding underneath a table with other dentists in the clinic. I remember her telling us, her voice shaking, that she was treating a patient when the earthquake happened, when the volcano erupted. That the entire clinic was filled with screams of panic.
I remember my father tersely trying to contact his relatives in another region where the eruption had been particularly severe. Where the lava had wiped out the houses of many communities. Where my relatives, in an effort to save themselves, climbed on top of their damaged homes in order to wave at helicopters for help.
I remember that for weeks and months after the eruption and earthquake, I had to be led to my school bus everyday, slowly, very slowly. The volcanic ash was so thick. We couldn't see in front of us at all. Tons upon tons of sulfur dioxide was discharged into the atmosphere, making it difficult to see or breathe for months.
I remember the uncertainty, the fear. I remember my parents trying to figure out how to book the heck out of the Philippines (we left for Canada a year later). I remember it all so vividly, despite being very young.
Last Friday, on March 11, 2011, my heart dropped when I saw the headlines early that morning. That an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. I can barely remember my own experience without feeling queasy; I can't even remotely imagine what people in Japan are feeling right now. It's more than an understatement to say that the situation is devastating, tragic. And how incredibly scary is it to still be feeling aftershocks?
I've looked through pictures of the damage in Japan with a heavy heart. Beyond rebuilding infrastructure, can you imagine what it's like for the people? At the individual level? What if your own home completely collapsed? All your belongings, your life's work, everything you own completely destroyed? What if you have absolutely nothing to eat but ramyun noodles you stored away for emergencies? What if you still can't find your family? What if you witnessed your own family members fall short of survival? I can't even imagine how devastating it must be for those who lost loved ones in the earthquake. To pick up the pieces of your life and attempt to put it back together without your family, your friends, is incredibly heartbreaking. The uncertainty and fear must still be so prevalent for them right now.
But what can we do? We're halfway around the world. We're grad students with our own busy schedules, our own things to worry about.
I can't think of anything else but to consider donating to relief efforts. So, dear readers, please consider donating to the Canadian Red Cross' Japan Earthquake relief efforts. I know we're all grad students on tight budgets at the moment, but please please consider donating even just a few dollars. Some people now have absolutely nothing to their name. What do they do now?
To visit the Red Cross website, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
"I have found the paradox that, if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love."
- Mother Teresa
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
- Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy