On Watching the News of the Tsunami in Japan

As I grade papers today, I want to ignore the background buzz and flicker of a news channel showing footage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  I watch someone’s home burst into flames and float away.  I watch a cargo ship turn over on its side as simply as a man changing positions in his sleep.  From an aerial vantage point, it seems like someone has poured buckets of black paint over the farmland.   I want to turn away from this news and this reality. 

I see a minivan turn circles in the water like a silver leaf.

Not until the voice behind the footage reminds me that I’m watching a wall of water moving at 500 mph do I suddenly imagine the noise, the wind, and the smell of it.  I look at that minivan and think of a family going about their day.  It’s not a leaf.  It’s a family in a vehicle. 

Just this morning, my youngest daughter hears the radio announce that an earthquake has hit Japan.  Tears well up and she says, “Mama, Aki is in Japan.”  

We leave for school and go about the day with that tsunami in the background of our minds.  I force it to the forefront–choosing to remember, choosing to pray.  It’s too easy to forget.  It’s too easy not to hear that background story of a country in crisis. 

I force myself to write about it.  But I don’t want to think about it.  It’s not happening here.  It’s over there

I go back to grading.  A student has written an analysis of W.H. Auden’s poem, “Musee des Beaux Arts.”   Auden writes about how, in the face of widespread human suffering, “everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster” because we have “somewhere to get to.” 

I don’t want to turn away.  I’m in this, and for me, being in this means I write.  That keeps it in the foreground.  That’s keeps me from turning away today. 

I write and pray for Japan today, and that’s how I’m choosing to live with flair.    

Journal:  How can I stay “in this” today?  Is it important to do this? 

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0 Responses

  1. I agree. I want to keep this in the front of my mind. It's too easy to be cheerful, for some of us, and forget.

  2. You're right, Heather. I've had those same thoughts. I told my husband yesterday that I wanted to go out and do something fun over the weekend. And all of a sudden, this morning I thought, But the people in Japan can't go out and just do something fun. Their worlds have been turned upside down. Thanks for writing this and for reminding us of the importance of praying.

  3. Thanks for this lovely posting Heather.

    I just read and reread Auden's “Funeral Blues,” having just lost a favorite auntie yesterday and then again with today's sad happenings in Japan.

    He wrote such powerful stuff and you do too! Thanks!

  4. I just keep thinking that we can't begin to imagine what the people of Japan are experiencing. We just can't imagine the loss.

  5. Thank you for this reminder. I found your blog through Proverbs 31 Ministries and am so glad I did–I' now a follower! The pictures of Japan yesterday simply broke my heart, as well. I kept trying to put myself in their shoes and attempt to imagine what it must have felt like, to be caught so off guard…. but it's impossible to do so. I struggle to deal with the awful truth that once one part of the world picks itself back up, another part begins the suffering all over again. All we can do is pray to God and praise Him for because, even in times of brokenness, He always remains the same!

    PS–I am a former English teacher and entering the blogging world myself! I would love for you stop by sometime and join my followers!:) morrowsunshine.blogspot.com

  6. Yes, it can be hard to stay “in this” but when we can't leave our lives to go and help out physically, it is important to at least acknowledge the pain and not turn away.

    I used to wonder how journalists could handle the pain of reporting on sad events so frequently; I've come to understand that it is another way to help – to spread the word so that many others will be aware and be able to assist.