Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Noda Village Clean-Up

On Tuesday, Corey and I went on a volunteer clean-up trip to Noda village, about a 2 hour drive south of Misawa. You can read an article NPR did on Noda a week after the quake HERE, but the basic rundown is that this small village of 5,000 residents was hit hard by the tsunami. 27 people were killed and 400 homes were destroyed after waves destroyed the concrete seawall protecting the town.

All that's left of the once forested and sea-walled coast

A month later on our visit, we saw that the devastation is still jaw-droppingly apparent. Much of the rubble has been cleared (and transferred to a gigantic mountain of metal and wood that we drove past just outside the town), but a lot still remains in what looks like an empty wasteland of total destruction. I've never seen anything like it before. I only had my point and shoot camera available to take quick shots with during work breaks, but these photos should give you an idea of what the scene looks like.

So we dug in. For most of the day, we moved rubble, piece by piece, into piles along the side of makeshift roads so that trucks could come haul it away. Among the wood and metal building remnants, trees, cement, etc. were haunting reminders of lives and livelihoods lost. Shoes. Dolls. Playing cards. Electric blankets. Dishes. Puzzle pieces. Photos. Makeup bags. Flooring sample catalogues. Lots of little glimpses of "before." I hope the owners of those things are alive, healthy, comfortable, and safe, wherever they might be now.
The "before" shot of one of the sections we worked on clearing

One area we cleared. At least a bit better than when we arrived.

Later in the day we helped a construction crew salvage (heavy) clay roof tiles off the top of a house that had been destroyed. With our volunteer group, we formed two giant lines and passed the tiles down across a muddy field. It was basically like doing 10-15 pound dumbbell raises nonstop for 45 minutes. With 50 big burley military men. In a muddy pit where your boots were firmly stuck in the mud so you couldn't move. Sound fun? Yeah, it wasn't. I'm just glad I still have the use of my arms.

It was a long, hard day of work, but very rewarding in the end. It was an intense place to visit and a very humbling experience. I'm so glad we went, not only so that we could appreciate and properly recognize what our neighbors are going through, but also so that we could help put a drop into the bucket of the task that is rebuilding northeastern Japan. It was a very small drop in a very big bucket, but it was something.

Toward the end of the day as we were clearing debris from a field at the edge of the destruction zone, a group of school kids walked by, waving and shouting "Goodbye!" (presumably one of the only english words the knew) to our group. In that moment, it felt like a group of smiling, happy kids getting on with their lives was the most beautiful and hopeful scene in the world. If those kids can be smiling, there's nothing stopping the rest of us. Japan will be alright.

For a few more pictures from the Noda clean-up, click here.


crazy bunny lady said...

Haunting and beautiful. Thank you for sharing. You are amazing. My prayers are with all the families.

Marianne said...

Remarkable pictures. Thank you for sharing, and I'm so glad you brought your camera so you can remember that day and tell others about it years from now.

margaret said...

Interesting post! I'm glad you got a chance to help. Very sobering, I'm sure, but maybe easier to deal with if you can participate in some way like this. Thanks for sharing.

mee ..... said...

Amazing pictures, By chance! your blog was randomly selected by google for my browsing from the "next blog" button. Needless to say, your photo images was so powerful, you don't need a translator to support the view. They speak their own language that everyone can understand!

Hazel Leurilli T. Zambas said...

such amazing pictures. God is so Great.