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Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012

News photo
A post-disaster view of a barren field across the road from Teiichi Sato's seed shop in the city of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. TEIICHI SATO

WEEK 3

Tsunami survivor uses English to share his tragic story


By TEIICHI SATO

The following is a further excerpt from Teiichi Sato's book, "The Seed of Hope in the Heart." People's accounts that Sato records here about the huge tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, were all told to him first-hand by survivors who came to his hastily rebuilt seed shop and would often burst into tears as they related their experiences.

News photo
Sato poses beside a picture he had painted on the wall of a prefabricated building that he uses as his seed shop. TOMOKO OTAKE

In the downward direction, there was an arrow of houses in a flat region. It was about 3 meters above the sea level. The tsunami rushed from all sides. A man jumped into the water and tried to help his neighbors. He saved several people, but he himself was washed away finally. His wife was stunned. A man was holding up other family's children. He put the children on an elevated safe location. But his legs were swept by the waves. He clung to the grass, but the grass was weak and broken. And then he disappeared. "Only if he had held a grass 2 meters ahead, just only 2 meters ahead." His wife trembles with fear and shed tears. A man was swallowed up by the wave while carrying old mother on his back. He barely survived, but his old mother was flowing. She was a master of Japanese leek cultivation. Every spring, she came to buy the seeds of leek. I can no longer meet her again. A woman came back to the take the baggage and was carried off by the wave. A man went back home to lock the door, but he never returned. Several houses were flowing with all of their family, including old people and young children.

Several minutes later, the tsunami hit the service station's area. The tsunami flooded the river. There was no levee place. The tsunami quickly covered the paddy fields. The tsunami monster ran across the road and destroyed houses in lowland. This place was a flat site in a mountain and was more than 5.5 km away from the sea. Most people did not expect any tsunami. They were in their houses and did not think to escape. Suddenly, the wave hit this area. Their lives have gone in a moment. Some people had a household. Some people were in the office. Some people were opening the safe. Some people were putting away the broken stuff. There were a variety of human events. They were all gone.

Traffic congestion turned into the piles of rubble. Once you get on a car, the escape becomes difficult. You cannot throw away your car. You cannot abandon your fellow passengers. You cannot leave the luggage. As a result, many people died in the cars. A man got off the car and tried to run away. But he was hit by a car in the traffic jam, and then, he was swept away by the wave. Drivers who were familiar to this area knew the alternative way in the mountain. They survived through the shortcut.

News photo
Sato's seed shop, which reopened in August 2011 on the same spot of his previous shop,only 2.5 km from the shore in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. TOMOKO OTAKE

At first, I started to clean up the debris in my Seed Shop's site. Heavy vehicles began to rampage in my site. They began destroying the retaining wall, the pavement, etc. Heavy vehicles went into the site without the permission by the landowner. I was almost screaming to stop it. I took hold of a broken piece of my house, strongly. It was a precious thing for me. You do not know these tears, if you do not experience the disaster.
I was trying to protect the poor remains. They were things such as a part of the foundation of the house, pile borders, a paved parking, paving bricks, retaining wall, garden soil, and so on. I surrounded my site with a rope immediately. I cleared the rubbles again. Wind was strong and carried the dust. There was a pungent smell of rubbles. "What a smell!" I was always dusty. My shoes were all sandy. The clothes I was wearing were the rags someone gave me. My hair and beard grew very long. In summer, we saw an abnormal number of flies were bred and were touching our foods. Also, many mice were bred in the rubbles. However, my forward-looking approach did not change at all. I was just doing my best. After the rain of my tears, I was looking forward to the rainbow of hope.

I continued to clean the rubble of the site. At that time, I found something like a human body. The police came to this site two times and they left with these findings. I touched both of my hands in this site quietly. I prayed.


WEEK 3



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