Misawa Air Base has become the hub for international relief efforts. Quite interesting to talk with my "homeboys" from the LA Fire Department on the base. One of my students is a dentist for the Japanese Self Defense Force who is being mobilized to help match dental records with bodies. Another is a JSDF officer responsible for coordinating military response in Sendai. Most of my other students are US military and contractors who are heavily engaged in providing rescue and relief services.
The Japanese system has quickly become overwhelmed, so the military help is becoming vital to the rescue and relief activities. Japanese supply lines are severed, so they are running low on food, water, and fuel. Misawa ran out of gasoline yesterday. The grocery stores are almost empty and still rationing access. Heating fuel is running low as winter-like storms lay a white sheet over the region.
The Misawa Air Base is already housing relief crews and survivors, but is also preparing to move the entire population inside the base if the fuel runs out. The air base still has no electricity, but it has sufficient fuel and food for the time being. The tidal waves were as big here as everywhere else but most people live far enough off the coast that we did not have the loss of life that is seen south of us. Penny and I spent yesterday helping some neighbors clear the debris that was once their home and barn; they seemed quite stoic, almost cheerful. Might go back to that first noble truth. Whatever it is, American citizens can learn a lot from the Japanese citizens about how to deal with tragedy. Completely missing: whining, hording, looting, expectations that someone else should take care of them.
One of the important consequences of this unfolding event that the media has completely missed is that the tidal waves have erased thousands of years of cultural and religious heritage. We are very familiar with some of the deluged areas, which rank among the most beautiful and sacred places in Japan. Of course, as people struggle for survival, it is understandable that they may not notice the loss of the spiritual and cultural. Regardless, if the Japanese tend to be adept at using tragedy as a refining fire to strengthen their society. When all is cleared they will be stronger as a people and a nation. Meanwhile, I am glad for the opportunity to provide whatever help I can.