One step between me and death
---The amazing story of how Kana's mother survived the tsunami

But truly as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives,
there is but a step between me and death.

I Samuel 20:3

March 24, 2011

Death but a step away

With the estimated death toll reaching 100,000 in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, death seems nearer than ever before. ---We are now coming to the realization that death is, in reality, but a step away. It might have been that person, it may have been those people, .... it could have been me. Read the article below to find out how Kana's mother survived the tsunami and barely escaped death.

Kana's mother, a City Hall worker

When the earthquake hit that calm, sunny afternoon of March 11th, Kana's mother was working at the City Hall where she had been working for the past two years.

When the first quake hit, most of the City Hall workers evacuated to the park in front of the City Hall building, as they were supposed to. Then Kana's mother, who evacuated with others to the park, remembered that she had left her bag in the office. So she went back to the building. But after she returned to the park, she remembered again that she had forgotten her cell phone. She went back again. Then, as she waited at the park for the evacuation order to be lifted, it came to her mind that she had left her purse inside the building. She decided to go back again for the third time.
It was at this point when the tsunami warning rang loudly outside the building. She and others who were still inside the City Hall were directed to run to the roof of the 3 story building. She later told her daughter with tears in her eyes that there were some workers who went back to the first floor to help the elderly people--- all of them lost their lives.
And all the City Hall workers who evacuated to the park lost their lives too, as they were directed to evacuate to the nearby 2 story building when the tsunami warning came. Had Kana's mother not returned (for the third time) to the City Hall building that day, her life would have been lost too.



Between the first and second tsunami

As the first tsunami waves reached more than 1.8 miles inland within 20 minutes after the great earthquake and with even greater waves expected to follow shortly after, there was a very scary moment for the evacuees at the City Hall. The people at the City Hall evacuated to one side of the roof of the building, but as they found out that the first tsunami waves were much higher than expected, they felt the need to evacuate to the higher place, to the other side of the roof. However, though the other side of the roof was the highest and the safest for them to evacuate to, the structure of the building demanded that the evacuees first descend to the second floor in order to climb up there. So between the first and the second tsunami, the 100 evacuees went down to the second floor where the water had already reached, walked down the connection corridor in the water, and climbed up to the higher component of the roof of the building---all within a few minutes before the next tsunami came.

Death seemed so close.

As the huge tsunami waves slammed into the building nearly reaching the top, death seemed so close.  Kana's mother thought of death as she stood there. She thought she might not make it out alive. The tsunami waves were so high that it nearly reached the top. The water level, however, after the 4th tsunami had passed, stopped right before it touched the evacuees' toes on that roof. "It was so close," she said, when she talked to Kana on the phone 4 days later. There were people that escaped the tsunami literally by a few seconds or by inches---by one step---as the waves gushed in and came right up to their knees or stomachs.

The tsunami took everything away.

Many of the dead were Kana's neighbors. Kana's classmate Shin died along with his father and mother, only Shin's younger brother survived. It breaks Kana's heart as she recalls how close the brothers were. The tsunami swept everything away and left so many homeless... and alone.Most of her once scenic hometown Rikuzen-takata has been swept away. Gone are houses, possessions, livelihoods, memories, families, friends, and neighbors.  Everything has been lost.

Reunion of Kana and her mother

With the phone lines disconnected, Kana had talked with her mother only once since the earthquake, and it took God's working it out for her to meet her mother when she arrived in Rikuzen-takata with 3 other people from Committed Japan on Monday. Kana and her parents were reunited in the afternoon of March 21st.[see the report here
It was a tear-filled reunion. Kana's mother is now working to support the town's evacuees as a City Hall worker. She told the Committed team members that she was "given life" and that means she has a purpose to accomplish.

Prayers and Hopes for the future

As Committed Japan is now preparing to start a long-term disaster relief in the affected city, it is our prayer and hope that through Kana, a native of Rikuzen-takata, the message of hope will be brought to her family and hometown --- as we believe this to be a part of what God has divinely ordained for her life even before she was born.

Rikuzen-takata, Kana's Hometown

Kana(Kick Back Cafe Staff)

A building stands in the rubble in Rikuzentakata, northern Japan after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011.

Rikuzen-Takata: 5000 Households Under Water and Victims Whereabouts Unconfirmed

On March 12th, the Self Defense Force of Japan started its rescue efforts of most all of the households of the city of Rikuzen-Takata that has been demolished by the recent earthquakes, which is estimated at 5,000.  From the rescue efforts in Takata area, the most damaged area, 52 bodies has been recovered on the 12th, and on the 13th, 114 more bodies more, totaling 166 in the 2 days.  The rescue efforts, however, has been slowed down by the debris blocking all traffic of the city whose population is 23,000. According to the task force of the city, roughly 8,000 people are placed in the emergency evacuated areas. The city is doing what they can to locate the whereabouts of the rest of the 15,000 of the population.  The City Hall, a 4-story building, has been engulfed by the tsunami and out of 300 workers there, the whereabouts of 100 employees have not been determined. Basic Resident Register has been lost. With the Basic Resident Register lost, the rescue efforts have been delayed. On the other hand, the Self Defense Force of Japan has been successful rescuing 37 people isolated from roofs of buildings.  Rescue efforts are to be scheduled from tomorrow on. (March 13, 7:48PM(JST), NHK)


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