Japan Earthquake Anniversary: Three Little Owls
Once upon a time, three little owls sat at my desk.
The story of where they came from has a sad beginning, but a joyful end.
In the beginning is the triple disaster that hit eastern Japan on March 11, 2011. That day, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the country’s largest island, Honshu, setting off a massive tsunami and triggering a nuclear disaster on a scale not seen since Chernobyl in 1986.
A year later, areas that had been impacted by the tsunami had begun to recover. Debris had been cleared, fields were being replanted and homes rebuilt. But in the areas around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, such recovery has been impossible. The ground is still too contaminated with radiation for people to return to their homes and businesses.
However, it was soon discovered that due to the direction of the wind on the day of the tsunami, radioactive particles had been blown into the mountains, contaminating the land and water where people were seeking shelter. It came as a shock to those who had thought they had done the right thing and gotten to safety, and many people left the mountains to go elsewhere. Some stayed, though, particularly the elderly for whom the evacuation had been very traumatic, and who wanted to remain close to their homes.
Reaching out, church groups from nearby areas started visiting the clusters of temporary houses as part of the NSKK’s “Issho Ni Aruko (Let Us Walk Together)” response program, bringing cookies and cakes, holding concerts and gatherings and spending time in fellowship. Keiko told me how groups of elderly women started to get together to do crafts as a way to keep each other company and stay busy and active, gathering in the common room of one of the temporary houses to fold origami or – to my delight – to stitch together tiny stuffed owls from remnants of fabric.
I certainly did not expect them to show up the next day with three tiny owls, wrapped up perfectly with shiny twist-ties, handmade and flown in from Japan. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of this gift, made even more special knowing what the owls represented – community, health, solidarity, protection from loneliness.
Even though I’m separated from my sisters by circumstance and not disaster, I know I’ll think of them whenever I look at my owl. I’ll remember to pray for those who long to be reunited with their loved ones and experience the sense of security and wholeness that disaster can strip away. And I’ll remember to pray for my new friends, Keiko and Akane, whose work is truly helping to heal a hurting world.
Images: Top, Surveying the damage. Middle 1, Replanting fields after clearing the debris. Middle 2, Japanese elderly man. Middle 3, Keiko Murai and Akane Shinoda visiting The Episcopal Church Center. Middle 4, Elderly women working on crafts together. Middle 5, Baskets of owls. Last, Three little owls sitting on Faith’s desk.
An Historical Journey
We invite you to journey with us through our 75 years of healing a hurting world. View our interactive timeline that takes you from our start in the 1940s to the present, and witness our growth in vision and direction. We thank you for your support that allows us to strive towards a flourishing future. It takes #AllHands75!