2011-05-27 / Columnists

From The Seawolves Den

Japan
By Anniesa Baldeo
By Scholars’Academy Students

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced an 8.9 earthquake that shook its northern regions and the waters, causing the strongest tsunami the nation has ever seen.

“In many ways the country is pushing forward. Japan has been stagnant economically and culturally. This has changed that drastically. One positive thing that they do have is very good engineers. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call for them to think proactively in the future,” said Associate Director, Education and Chinese Language Initiatives Mr. Chris Lavaccarri of The Asia Society.

Here, our Key Club hosted a dress down week from March 21 to March 25, raising $5,165. This was in addition to the fundraiser that took place in the G.O. store. We are currently seeking assistance from the New York City Department of Education to help us donate the money directly to the Okawa Elementary School in memory of the students who died in the earthquake, and to help rebuild the school.

“I was born and raised in southern part of Nagano Prefecture in Japan. Nagano lies in the center of main island. My father, sisters and all my relatives live in Japan. When the earthquake occurred, I was not able to connect with them at all. The phone calls to Japan didn’t go through. I sent them [an] email but I didn’t get reply right away. I was so worried. After so many phone call attempts, finally, I was able to get in touch with my classmate from high school and he informed me that the area my family reside had a little or no effect from the events and everyone is okay,” said the parent of Daichi Washington of homeroom 706, Mitsuko Washington.

On April 25, 2011, at the Okawa Elementary School, a graduation ceremony was held for its 21 graduates. During the ceremony 16 graduation certificates were given to the parents of the lost students. On April 28, a joint memorial was held that included a 21- second moment of silence, observed by all students and staff at our school for the 21 graduates of the Okawa Elementary School.

“When you help [and support] others in need, you get this feeling that you have helped someone who’s needed a hand and a shoulder to lean on,” said ninth grade Key Club member Prianka Kalia.

The Okawa Elementary is just one school that suffered from the effects of both the earthquake and tsunami. “Some of my friends from college lives around the areas that were severely affected. At the time of the earthquake, most of them were at work. When it happened, the electricity and phone service went down, so they weren’t able to get any info as to what was going on, how much of the damage in the general and local area, how were the public transportation working (which went down as well), and most importantly, if their family survived. It took all night long for them to walk back home in the snow and found their house partially destroyed. Their families are okay. They needed to get food and water, warm clothes to wear, but it was very hard to get the info and they weren’t sure if the streets were safe enough to walk to the supply facility. No phone lines, TVs, radio to get info. Then, I found people using Facebook as their information wall. They were able let each other know if they are okay, where to get food and supplies, photos, their experiences, encouraging comments and thank you notes, etc. I realized the importance of having internet service on the cell phone. I was also touched by them still helping and encourage each other in such a hard time. This event affected me mostly by the way I look at things. I see people in Japan do little things, whatever they can do to help others, and it means a lot to many people. I heard the story about a little old lady opened her home to those who were walking all night so they could use her bathroom. Little things like that meant so much to many people,” said Ms. Mitsuko Washington.

According to The New York Times, three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station suffered partial meltdowns as a result of the tsunami. This caused explosions that have led to radioactive gas leaks. Some of these reactors have overheated and caught fire.

“The core of a nuclear reactor is made up of a set of fuel rods that produce heat. The heat from those rods is carried away by interaction with a coolant, usually water, which is then used to create energy by powering a steam turbine. If the heat is not carried away, the temperature in the core rises. Eventually, it can get so hot that the rods start to melt. A partial meltdown occurs when some of the rods melt. What makes this situation so dangerous is that if the material forms a liquid, it is harder to regain control of the process.

Normally, one can dampen a nuclear reaction by inserting control rods (radiation absorbing materials) between the fuel rods. If the rods melt, this is not so easy to do, and the nuclear materials continue to react,” said Professor of Chemistry Mark Kobrak at City College of New York.

As of April 12, the official death toll was more than 12,700 people. Also, more than 237,000 people remain at temporary homes and shelters. There are also 14,700 people that are still missing. Government officials expect the death toll to reach 18,000.

“We are trying to make our contribution to rebuild Japan within our possibilities. At school, we are organizing a concert, pro [efforts for] Japan, and other activities. I am also trying to communicate more often with my relatives overseas. One of my aunts lives in Ibaraki, a region that was affected by the tsunami in its coastal area. Fortunately, she lives rather far from the sea, so the tsunami did not reach her town. However, she did feel the earthquake and aftershocks, and had to take precautions to avoid radiation exposure. I spoke to her yesterday, and she told me that people’s lives in her town are quite back to normal,” said Higashide.

Despite this tragedy, the people of Japan continue to endure and are already dealing with their mistakes in planning for such an event.

“Do not underestimate the power of nature. One of the Japanese towns had built a concrete wall as tall as 33 feet near the sea, thought to be tall enough to contain the most powerful and highest tsunami. The tsunami went over, and even destroyed the wall. This disaster showed me the spirit of solidarity and organization of the Japanese. I could see in the Japanese news on TV how the victims gave up their small rations of food if they saw someone who needed it more, or even shared their food and goods with reporters, as happened in one of Diane Sawyer’s interviews. The food company my aunt works for increased their production so that they could donate bread to the shelters, workers volunteered their working hours, and so on. Cooperation spirit could be seen everywhere,” said Ms. Higashide.

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