They said the Navy assured them Tuesday morning, Central Daylight Time, that radiation levels at Naval Air Facility Atsugi are “extremely low.”
The Navy says the exposure from an hour of activity outside would be equal to what you normally receive from your TV, microwave oven and cell phone in a day. And even that small increase can be all but eliminated by staying indoors.
Heather is the daughter of Anthony “Tiny” and Darlene Duplechien. Joshua is the son of Lori and Al Laviolette and Pat and Margo Patin.]
Atsugi, Japan – It started off like any normal Friday. Woke up, drank my morning coffee, went out into town for an English lesson with one of my Japanese students. I had a busy morning and I was relieved to finally get home and sit down to have lunch. Only I was not sitting very long – well sitting still, that is. As I took my first bite, I felt the earth move. My chair began to sway slightly and my first thought was Oh! Another earthquake!
I was sort of excited. Then I did what any social media-crazed person does when interesting things happen: I rushed to my computer to broadcast it on Facebook.
Right when I sat down on the couch, the vibration under my feet worsened.
The hanging lamp in my living room started swaying violently back and forth. Then I heard the chime outside, sounding off, as if it were in the middle of a windstorm. The shaking kept getting more and more intense, to the point where I had a really hard time getting my balance to stand up and walk.
I did not know what to do, my body remained frozen and my mind raced with questions I did not have the answers to. It kept getting worse and worse, my pictures hanging on the walls were almost doing full circles around the nails they hung from and things on my end tables started toppling over.
I transitioned quickly from being excited to anxious and I hoped that the movement would soon stop. I stumbled towards my patio door and saw people already outside their homes, some having holding on to near by shrubs to keep their balance. Then the shaking began to temper off and the world was still again.
I had no idea how much devastation was brought on by the few minutes that I had just experienced to our northern neighbors in Sendai 254 miles away. Neither did many people on our base. Here are some very different accounts of the earthquake from fellow residents of Naval Air Facility Atsugi.
Lina Hernandez, a New York native, was on her way to work when the earthquake hit.
“All I could think about was my husband at home,” she explains. “We live on the eighth floor in our apartment building and my first thought was, Oh please God don’t let the towers fall! I made my way back home and found my husband safe and sound.
“I hugged him and heavy-heartedly headed on my way back to work in town. Traffic was at a standstill and people flooded the streets. Students from a nearby school were wrapped in blankets outside and every one was looking up towards the tops of the buildings that surrounded them as they continued to sway back and forth from the unrelenting aftershocks.
“My mind raced with flash backs from my experiences of 9/11 and chills went up my spine. I feel very fortunate. My husband and friends are all safe. I count my blessings when I watch the local news and I am often bombarded with overwhelming feelings of helplessness.
“I want to assist in the disaster relief in any way I can, but I know there is nothing I can do to erase the traumatic events that have stricken this country and its people.”
Lezley Neff, used to the unpredictable weather patterns of her Missouri hometown, was sitting at her computer desk of her fifth floor residence when she felt the gentle swaying of her computer chair.
“I thought it was just another mild tremor,” she said. “We feel them pretty often on the upper levels. They usually last a couple of seconds and are gone before you know it. But this one continued to get stronger, shaking the tower in directions that were a cause for concern. I even had to hold on to my breakables so they would not fall off my shelves! It was very hard keeping my balance through the worst part of it. But when I could finally make it to my door I hurried out and checked on my neighbors nearby. Yes, it was quite a ride for the people on the fifth floor!”
Nate and Amanda Payne were on a tour enjoying what they thought would be a relaxing day of skiing at a nearby resort, when the shaking commenced.
“All eyes were intently staring up at the top of the mountain,” Amanda said. “Employees were really worried about avalanches and closed the facility. Once the resort was closed, we headed home. Our supposedly three-hour, 140-mile bus ride home turned into an 11-hour escapade because of all the traffic and numerous road closures.”
Alice Sams was in the recovery room at a nearby Naval base for barely twenty minutes after undergoing surgery.
“I was just coming to," she explained, "and all I can remember in the beginning was the feeling of my bed shaking, horrid sirens going off, and people screaming. It was dreadfully scary. The medical instruments above my head began jolting quite vigorously and my husband did his best to shield me. Nurses came into my room and moved me from my bed into a wheelchair in the hopes of evacuating me by elevator. When it was discovered that the elevator was not in service I was then moved to a stretcher. I was hauled down flights of stairs only to ultimately be turned around and trotted back up into my room to wait out the remainder of the night. The whole process was excruciatingly painful and is something I will never forget.”
Candice Calais Tabor, originally from St. Martin Parish, and now resident of Misawa Air Force Base said: “This was definitely the most scariest thing I’ve ever experienced, hands down!”
Everyone had a most eventful Friday afternoon and as the day progressed information about tsunami advisories, rolling black outs, road closures, fires, nuclear meltdowns, and stranded friends took the place of casual conversation.
Phone lines were jammed and traffic was horrific. All trains were stopped, leaving people desperate to get home stranded, with limited alternatives. All major airports were shut down, forcing United States-owned companies to land their planes at the nearest Air Force base.
Since the quake, there has been non-stop worrying, by residents of Japan and people around the globe. I think it is safe to say that we are all suffering from information overload. Most of us living here refuse to turn our televisions on.
Trying to sift out the truth from the floating rumors and over-exaggerated media hype is mentally draining and can consume your day if you let it. That is why we have taken to other, more productive pastimes.
Navy wives and Navy personnel launched Operation Tomadachi (Friends) Saturday March 12. Huge boxes of donated clothes, blankets, and nonperishable food items were collected within hours, and shipped to the heavily affected areas of Japan. This was a truly tremendous effort to help the amazing people of our host nation.
We have felt countless aftershocks that vary in intensity. The tremors come often, leaving people utterly nauseated to the point where some have to resort to taking motion sickness prevention aids. Also, these constant nuisances wreak havoc on already compromised structures, such as the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, located 184 miles away.
Despite all the events that have happened and continue to happen, we are doing our best to carry on with our usual activities. We are very grateful for our safety thus far and continue to hope for the best.
I would like to extend a great thank you to the amazing community I have back home, my friends, and my family. Thank you for all the love and support that everyone has showed us over the past few days. It has been and I am sure will continue to be a very stressful living situation, but your continuous out pour of love and support has been more comforting than you can imagine.
We are doing great and have our emergency bags packed just in case the situation with anything worsens.
Looking back to the time when we first arrived, we were told a most valuable piece of information that has proven true in the 17 months that we have resided at NAF Atsugi.
In Japan, you must always expect the unexpected, and in the midst of all the chaos that arises by the hour, there seems to be one common factor that is uniting all residents throughout Japan – the fear of the unknown answer to the ever-looming question of, “What’s next?“
If you would like to participate in assisting Japan in relief efforts you can visit www.redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.