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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Day One. Magnitude 9.

Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 8:33am
Earthquakes have different characteristics. They may be the same magnitude yet totally different in twist direction, duration and acceleration of speed. In the Sendai 9 on March 11 2011 I had just gone into the bathroom when it began. They say smaller rooms are safest and I remember thinking 'well this is as good as any place to be' and in the first few seconds -your window of escape time frame- as the quake began to build to its peak I decided to stay put, opening the small window a fraction so the glass was less likely to shatter and opening the door so it wouldn't jam. These were things I had been taught by my kids to do, from their drills at Japanese school. I stood in the door arch and held the door beams above me for some balance.

The quake began in a side to side rolling way as most quakes do. It was after about 5 to 10 seconds it began to change to the violent up and down kind of violent quake that everyone lives in fear of. I realized at that point as the two motions of side to side and up and down were joined by a terrible twisting, that this was a very, very major quake.

I was scared -my heart was racing wildly- but at the same time you know there is absolutely nothing you can do but pray or wait. It felt as if a giant had reached down and was trying to uproot our house like an unwanted weed, twisting and pulling the house until you could hear parts of the walls and roof tiles, fall off, and crashes and bangs as furniture in other rooms fell over.

I was thinking all the time about my son X in his room above. I didn't call out because the sound of the quake was huge and deafening and I trusted that he would know what to do on his own and screaming at this point was going to add to panic for both of us.

As the quake reached its terrifying climax, the door I stood in actually lifted from its sockets and i felt like I was defying gravity for several seconds. Water from the toilet bowl spilled out all over the floor and on my feet.

It lasted a long time. It shuddered to an end with ghastly hiccups of magnitude 7 and 8 following at 2 to 10 minute intervals for hours and hours. I stumbled out and called to X..he said he was okay.

The living room looked like a burglar had visited,cupboard doors open and contents spilled, a mirror smashed, papers and lighter items all over the floor but I didn't want to be inside.

Ran outside. The road was still swaying. I looked up at our house, it was still swaying. Everything was in motion, telegraph wires, trees, no birds sang, then quite suddenly out of nowhere it began to snow heavily. Within one minute everywhere was covered in a blanket of white snow. And then, just as suddenly it stopped...

People were out on the road in a panic, everyone looked so scared, the world was still rocking. A woman ran out with cuts on her face and said her windows were smashed and she was cut..I noticed lots of motorcycles and bicycles on their side fallen, walls crumbled and huge monster cracks appeared in our road. Some houses had lost parts of their roofs and windows everywhere had smashed with glass on the pavement. My legs were shaking and it was so cold I didn't walk far from the house at this point.

Neighbors gathered in small groups with umbrellas, someone gave me a mask, there was dust and was below zero, so cold.

It occurred to me that we were on high land, the hilly central part of Sendai..what could this have been like for people near the water, on the coast just 40 minutes away. Nobody knew about the tsunami yet.

I wanted to know the magnitude but there was no information. Power had of course gone out and fires lit up the hill around us. It was like a scene from a movie but there was no script, no music, no story ye