A volunteer who'd come from Tokyo stares at the rubble left by tsunami with a solemn look on his face. He says that he can't get the smell of something smoldering under the soil out of his nose.
A supporter from Saitama talks about hushed silence. About three weeks after the March 11 quake and tsunami, the supporter was helping with house-to-house searches trying to confirm the safety of disabled residents. The local welfare evacuation center was notified as soon as a body was found. And whenever that happened, the air filled with tension.
The reason was a local social welfare worker who was posted at the shelter. He happened to be at city hall when the tsunami hit, and for the next three days and three nights, continued to tend to the area's victims.
Only later did he learn that his family had been swallowed whole by the waves as they sat in their car. His wife, fortunately, was spared, but their children, aged 1 and 3, went missing. And yet, he couldn't take time away from work, and continued his search for disabled residents among the rubble. Out of consideration for his situation, his colleagues fell silent whenever talk turned to children and bodies.
Unlike the connected series of memories that we generally accumulate from childhood, flashbulb memories are scenes that have caused us sadness or fear that return to our consciousness in a flash of images. Six months have passed since that day, but some scenes are stuck in the minds of both local survivors and volunteers who have gathered to help.
Around 20,000 people have died or are missing from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Even today, at least 80,000 people are still living in evacuation shelters. As time goes on, the needs on the front lines continue to change.
Determining that it was no longer enough just to dispatch support staff, the aforementioned supporter from Saitama will be setting up a consultation support center in the disaster-struck region at the request of a local municipal government.
The local welfare worker will also be working at the center. Though his 1-year-old has yet to be found, some days, a drink or two gets him talking about his children, a little bit at a time. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
(Mainichi Japan) September 12, 2011