The Cherry Blossom After the Earthquake
On March 11, 2011, my husband got a call around 5 a.m. It was his mother, begging us to move to higher ground. A tsunami advisory had been issued for parts of California. For a brief moment, we panicked. We had missed reports the night before of the earthquake off of Japan and had no idea of its severity. As we turned on the computer, the extent of the devastation hit us. While we did not move to higher ground (it turned on the tsunami threat was farther north), we did spend hours glued to the news, praying for Japan, and contemplating exactly what all of this meant.
Two years ago, I worked for a city government. We participated in a region-wide simulation called the “Great Shakeout.” This was an emergency preparedness exercise for a potential 7.8 magnitude earthquake off of a fault line 100 miles east of Los Angeles. In this simulation, major freeways, office buildings, homes collapse. There is a shortage of water, food, power. At least 2,000 people die and 50,000 are injured – workers trapped in aged, collapsing buildings; elderly who can’t get enough sustenance. Major aftershocks continue to rattle the land for days after the first quake. And this is an earthquake ten times weaker that what hit Japan. What I learned from that simulation is that you can be prepared…but you can never be fully prepared. Yes, friends, that’s a little scary.
In a fitting turn of events, I had the opportunity to visit the Cherry Blossom festival in Washington, D.C. last weekend. The City of Tokyo gave the cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C. as a gift of friendship in 1912. They bloom at approximately the same time as the cherry blossoms in Tokyo. When I arrived, it was a cool, crisp, but sunny day. The blossoms where in peak bloom. If you’ve never seen a cherry blossom, think of witnessing a tree exploding with the airy, clouds from Care Bear’s Camelot – white and various shades of pink. They are breathtaking.
It was beautiful to witness these blossoms and think that right now, despite all of the devastation that has hit Japan, these blooms are shining forth as they do each year.
While Tokyoites have canceled many of their cherry blossom (hanami) festivals this year to show solidarity with those directly affected by the tsunami, the flowers are still in bloom.
Cherry blossoms, which last only a couple of weeks, act as an important reminder to us all…
Life is beautiful, but fleeting.