Voices from Japan
Mahalo to the Shanghai Daily and to Peter Gellatly for sharing their article with Pacific Network.
EDITOR'S note: This letter, written by Vietnamese immigrant Ha Minh Thanh (working in Fukushima as a policeman) to a friend in Vietnam, was posted on New America Media on March 19. It is a testimonial to the strength of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of life near the epicenter of Japan's crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power pl...ant. It was translated by NAM editor Andrew Lam, author of "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." Shanghai Daily condensed it. http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/?id=467066&type=Opinion
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Brother, How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in
chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I also
see dead bodies. Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there
were 48 hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing
folks. We are without water and electricity, and food rations are near zero.
We barely manage to move refugees before there are new orders to move them
I am currently in Fukushima, about 25 kilometers away from the nuclear power
plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could write it all down, it
would surely turn into a novel about human relationships and behaviors
during times of crisis. People here remain calm - their sense of dignity
and proper behavior are very good - so things aren't as bad as they could
be. But given another week, I can't guarantee that things won't get to a
point where we can no longer provide proper protection and order. They are
humans after all, and when hunger and thirst override dignity, well, they
will do whatever they have to do. The government is trying to provide
supplies by air, bringing in food and medicine, but it's like dropping a
little salt into the ocean.
Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese
boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human
being. Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity
organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked
this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing
a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. It was getting very cold and the boy was at
the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there
wouldn't be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when
the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the
school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep
his father's car away.
I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and
that his mother and little sister probably didn't make it. He turned his
head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives. The boy was
shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That's when my
bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. "When it
comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here's my portion. I
already ate. Why don't you eat it?"
The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he
didn't. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it
where all the food was waiting to be distributed. I was shocked. I asked him
why he didn't eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He answered:
"Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then
they will distribute the food equally."
When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn't see me cry.
A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of
sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.
Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours of
my shift have begun again.
Ha Minh Thanh