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Travails of a Non-Swimmer

On March 11

New beginning

Today, March 11th, marks the day two years ago when the most horrifying earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc on the shores of eastern Japan, wiping away entire towns and taking more than 18,500 lives.

The magnitude of the disaster was such that it was hard to believe it was actually happening. That day, I remember watching footage on the train station’s overhead TVs as the gigantic waves crashed onto Tohoku’s shores. Young or old, rich or poor, weak or strong, swimmer or non-swimmer, no one within the tsunami’s perimeter could withstand the colossal force of nature.

Two years later, as memorial services are held across the country, it is Monday as usual here in Japan. For us in the Tokyo area, we are all the lucky ones. Those in Fukushima had it so bad I feel guilty about the thought of using electricity coming from nuclear power plants that had the power to light up entire cities and at the same time poison the earth and destroy the livelihood of thousands of people.

After witnessing the resilience and dignity of the Japanese people in the face of staggering devastation, and experiencing first hand the outpouring of support from all around the world, I promised myself that I would not take a day for granted. That I will live each day to the fullest, for myself and for all the people who have died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Two years later, I often forget this promise.

This morning’s news featured a short documentary on the life of a mother as she sought to deal with the death of her 24-year old daughter. The daughter was employed by the local ward, and it was her job to announce warnings on the emergency speakerphones around town. She refused to leave her post, and kept on telling people to flee to a higher place. In the end, the tsunami took her.

It was her mother who recommended that she take a job at the local ward. I could not even begin to imagine the guilt the mother was feeling. “If only I encouraged her to take a job in the big city instead. This would never have happened…” Now the mother is dealing with the aftermath of a daughter dying way too young. The mother now does lots of volunteer work, including housing young people who go to the area offering their free labor to help clean up the wreckage.

So many lives lost. You’d think that those of us who came out unscathed would do good, live better, become better human beings.

Not me. Life goes on as usual. What a crying shame.

I’m watching the documentaries and thinking, once more, how lucky I am to be alive.

Life is a gift. Don’t take it for granted. Because you never know when it will be taken away from you.

So stop whining.

Stop complaining.

It’s a blessing to be alive.

Tonight, run for all the dead little children who weren’t given the chance to complete a marathon. Swim for all the dead young women who weren’t given the chance to complete an individual medley.

Because unlike them, and although you don’t deserve it, you are one lucky bitch.

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