I have been through disasters in my life. Plenty of them, including natural disasters. I survived the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and from that experience I come away with knowledge of what such circumstances bring to these people. Homelessness, worry, fear. I lost my home, my clothes, my dishes and my mementos. None of them were ever replaced, though with help I moved on and faced life. Granted, I ended up leaving Californai and moving back to my parents for help, but I eventually found my way and made a place for myself in this world.
When I moved on, I slowly replaced all my material possessions. I took new pictures and got a new home. I continued my journey in college and graduated with honors. I had a child and became a teacher. It was what moving on meant. Yet still, to this day, it touches a place inside me when I hear of such news. It brings me back to the night I felt saved by angels, walking out of my apartment alive while walls and streets crumbled around me. My dog and my friends were a saving grace during the period following the earthquake.
I stood in lines for food, I stood in lines to fill out paperwork for a place to live, I stood in lines to find a job, I stood in lines for a place to sleep for a night. FEMA helped with accomodations in a hotel, as well as food vouchers. I was given clothing. All the basic neccessities to live were shared with me, while my innocence and security was lost. It wasn't all bad. As I stood in those lines, people of every culture, color, and religion stood with me, and we made each other feel safe and collected and bound within the group of those suffering the damages of something bigger than us. It made us strong as a group, this suffering and working together to make it work. At the age of 21, it was even a bit of excitement. Though I had lost my home, it wasn't mine that I had worked years to achieve and was ripped form me in the blink of an eye. My apartment was gone, my home still housed in the Wyoming mountains.
I did eventually go home. Finding a job in the face of such chaos proved unfruitful. Finding a home I could afford was also no cup of tea...who would accept my voucher? But always with me is the chaos and destruction that happened the night of the Northridge earhtquake, as well as all that was lost, and all gained during the period following.
The people in Japan are suffering. Their temporary housing and food vouchers can only give them comfort for so long. They have lost and suffer worry, fear, homelessness. Their homes and all the comforts they have known have been stripped from them. As I sit in my home furnished with a computer and cell phones and a new big screen tv and lights and heat and furniture and a few new clothes I bought last week, I think of these people. These peopel, just like me, who have suddenly nothing left, some not even so lucky to have their lives. It sits like a pit in my stomach. What is my responsibility to these people? They are so far away, Japan isn't even on the same continent. What can I do to help ease the burden? What can I do other than offer my prayers, my hopes, and my compassion from afar?