Japanese Recovery- We’ve Been There, Too

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In the time following September 11th, Americans were lucky to receive support from countless places. It seemed as though everyone understood we were suffering, and wanted to offer as much help as possible to help us rebuild. Ten years later, we are still a nation on the mend, rebuilding after losing so much- we are doing our best to persevere.
Unfortunately, Americans are not alone when it comes to rebuilding in the wake of disaster.

On March 11th, Japan was struck by terrible disasters causing widespread devastation and loss of life. The largest earthquake to ever affect Japan struck the eastern coast, and led to a tsunami that caused the ocean to reach six miles inland. Both of these events led to the failure of a nuclear station located in Fukushima.

In the nine months that have followed, the nation has been feverishly rebuilding infrastructure, homes, office buildings, hospitals, and schools. This was all in addition to mourning the loss of nearly 16,000 people.
In October, I was able to travel to the affected areas to experience firsthand what the rebuilding was like. After learning that I would not be able to go within 40 miles of the Fukushima DaichiPower Plant, due to radiation concerns,
I wondered how much I would be able to learn about the damage caused by these natural disasters.

Koriyama is a medium size city in the Fukushima Prefecture (in Japan, a prefecture is a division of government similar to a state). It is located about 150 miles north of Tokyo and 40 miles west of the failed nuclear reactor. For the purposes of comparison, I had to recall my trip to Koriyama in 2008. Buildings, power lines, and gas lines are all something that can be rebuilt, what interested mewas the attitudes of the people. What I found brought me right back to the months following the 9/11 attacks.

The Japanese focus on recovery, rebuilding, and sticking together as a nation reminded me of the universal patriotism after 9/11. Politics, economics, and personal beliefs are all being set aside in order to reach a common goal- making a country complete again after being struck with tragedy.

It was an important lesson for an American to be reminded how the enormous task of rebuilding must be carried out with delicate precision and careful attention to the memories of victims.

What’s going on in Japan is exactly what happened to us a decade ago.
The sad reality that struck me was the realization that in time, the Japanese, too, will be launched so far into recovery efforts things will go back to being “normal.” Sure, maybe there will be more earthquake drills and greater nuclear regulations, just the same as our travel screening and counterterrorism efforts on our homeland. But someday, these will all become a part of life, not a mandatory addition after a tragedy.

I turned 18 two months after 9/11. Suddenly I was responsible for my own actions, and had to carefully contemplate every decision I made. During the same period of time, our country matured and was entering an era where action and decisions are all made with care. Japan is now entering a time of growth- not physical or economic, but safety and preservation of life are now most important to the weather-beaten island nation.As Americans, and a group of people that were scarred by tragedy, we must stand by Japan, and provide as much support and empathy as we are able.
During my four day visit to Japan, I learned that the recovery process isn’t as simple as being able to erect buildings and remove debris. Instead it relies on the people sticking together to reach a common goal. For a short period of time, politics, personal beliefs, and minor differences are put aside to work together towards a common goal. As an American, it is unfortunately all too easy to provide empathy to a nation struggling to overcome tragedy. We’ve been there, and it only helps us provide support to Japan.

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