Friday, April 8, 2011

For the record

I don’t keep a diary. I keep most of my memories instead on scrapbook pages. My blog is about my scrapbooking, so here is where I choose to record my small version of the events of March 11th, 2011. I record this more for me than for others. Because I don’t want to forget. Not that I would. Its not something you forget, much like “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” “Where were you when the space shuttle Columbia blew up?”

Four weeks ago today, at 2:46 p.m. I was home alone, brushing my hair and refreshing my makeup in the bathroom. My work starts from 3:30 on Fridays so I was getting ready for my students. My children get home from school around 3:00. I heard a noise, like a scratching on a window screen. My kids and I sometimes play little pranks on each other when the other is unsuspecting, so I thought my son had gotten home a bit early and was scratching at the window screens near the front door. I kept hearing the noise, expecting it to stop and for him to come in. But the noise just continued. I put down my brush and starting walking toward the front door. It was then, and not until then, that I noticed my Benjamin Ficus tree in the living room shivering. “Hmm, it must be an earthquake,” I thought. You see I’ve been here 19 years now so I have become a bit immune to the little shakes that go on sometimes. The shaking had stopped for just a bit, so I was about to go about my happy little way.

As I was standing there watching my tree, the real quake came. It might have been sudden, but in my memory it all happens in slow motion. My tree – lovingly named Fiona – started shaking in earnest. But it isn’t so much her shaking that I remember, I remember the sound of the walls around me, the ceiling above me. Creaking, groaning. My dining table just to my left shaking, the shaking growing more intense by the second. I was ready for it to stop. I kept waiting for it to stop, but it didn’t. At some point, I no longer felt safe standing there, but had no foresight to run outside. So I ducked under my dining room table. I was on my hands and knees, waiting, waiting for the sound – the horrible sound, the shaking – the endless shaking to stop. I was holding on to my dining room table legs to keep the table over me. It’s a very sturdy table, but it was wanting to make its way across the floor, as if it too were trying to run away. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember was screaming out to God, “Oh dear God! Make it stop! Oh dear God, where are my babies. Oh please, please keep them safe!” The shaking, the creaking, the groaning continued. Tears streaming down my face. Where were my kids? Why was this taking so long to end? And then it did. The shaking of the earth had stopped, but my own body could not. Shaking, crying, praying. I ran out the front door. I needed to find my children.

As soon as I was outside, I was surrounded by other mothers in my building, holding their babies, searching for their children returning from school as well. “Oh wow, that was so scary! Are you okay??? Is your house okay?” That was all we could talk about. Just then I saw my boy. My boy! He came up the walkway, smiling just as he always does. “Cool! Did you feel that?” he said. “Yeah, I felt it,” I answered. “I was over there on the bridge. It felt like I was surfing the ocean at first. But then it really starting rolling like a wave and I got scared and ran off.”

Oh thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for keeping my boy safe. Thank you for sending your angels to hold that bridge up. Thank you!

Back in the house about 10 minutes later. My son and I had calmed down quite a bit. His positive and carefree attitude is contagious and I was feeling better. We had survived. We were safe and as far as I knew at the time the worst was over. Enter my daughter, a little bit late getting back from school. As soon as she walked in the door she started screaming and crying. “I was so scared mommy. I thought I was going to die. I thought I would never see you again.” Just those words opened up my own tear ducts again and all I could do was hold her and cry with her. She told me that she was still in her classroom when the quake struck. The kids have earthquake drills all the time so they know exactly what to do. Duck down, get under your desk. She and a friend were chatting at her desk. When the quake struck, the teacher screamed out, “Get under your desks!” Her friend ducked under my daughter’s desk. All my baby could do was put her head under her chair. She was scared – she told me she was scared that she would be crushed and all that would be left of her was her head. Oh that girl has such an imagination. I wish I could have been there with her. I would have gladly shielded her from anything. At least I could hold her now.

Thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you that my baby girl is safe and back home with me. Thank you that her school walls were strong enough to hold up around her.

It was after all this that I finally thought about my husband downtown. Surely he was okay, but I needed to tell him that we were okay. Just a quick text message would do. But landlines, cell lines, all communication lines were jammed with millions of people thinking the same thing. I didn’t get in touch with anyone for hours.

I knew my family in America would be worried about me and I needed to let them know we were okay. It was finally at this point that I went to my bedroom and was going to sit down at my computer to email them. Where was my computer??? It’s a desktop, but it wasn’t on my desk. The quake had shaken it off and it was on the floor, crashed upside-down. I put it back on the desk and tried to start it up, but it would not even power up. Well, crud. Here was the sole casualty in our house – my computer. I needed to get in touch with my family – or they would be worried sick.

I was able to get on Facebook from my Android phone. My niece is on FB as well, and I wrote on her wall that she needed to tell Grandma and Grandpa (my mom and dad) that we were okay. She proved invaluable to me over the next few weeks. Without a computer I spent hours typing into my Android FB application, giving and getting updates. I have never been so thankful for a phone, so thankful for a social networking site in my entire life.

 It is at the same time both comforting and eerily disturbing to see that the rest of world continues to function normally even when I cannot. Everything seemed to stop at once. And the things that did continue on around me I can barely remember. I could not communicate freely. I could not breathe without fear. But at least I could live. I could not feel the passing of days as they should be, only living from one fear or one relief to the next. My wall was covered with fearful and tearful messages. In reply I received so much love and support, without which I do believe I could have disappeared into a dark cave. But my friends and family kept me afloat, they kept me informed, they kept me warm with their virtual hugs. Some far away were even more frightened than I was and I found myself comforting them. In encouraging others I too found strength. I found my determination to stay and grow. There are still uncertain times, but - at least for now - my panic has subsided and I feel the passing of time again.

A boiling Spring sea
ate my land. The people grieve.
Still, blossoms will come.
(haiku by HeatherT)

all papers and elements from Douceur by Laitha Designs at The Digichick
font is DJB So much to Say

 At times life is wicked and I just can't see the light
A silver lining sometimes isn't enough
To make some wrongs seem right
Whatever life brings
I've been through everything
And now I'm on my knees again

But I know I must go on
Although I hurt I must be strong
Because inside I know that many feel this way

Children don't stop dancing
Believe you can fly

lyrics from Don't Stop Dancing by Creed

all papers and elements from Spring Love add-on by ViVa Artistry
page template from Spring Blooms 2 by Busy Bee Designs
font is DJB So Much to Say

  "This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life." - unknown
papers and elements from Wishes, Hopes & Dreams by The Digichick Designers
page template from Easter Baskets by Busy Bee Designs

Thank you to my family and friends for hundreds of prayers breathed, not only for Japan in general but even specifically for myself and my family. Thank you to my family and friends for giving me updates from the foreign standpoint. Thank you to my family and friends for not thinking me completely crazy when I decided to stay. Thank you for keeping me sane. Thank you for your hugs and prayers. I love you.

Thank you for bearing with me as I  write it all down.


Ingrid said...

It's impossible not to bear with you when writing it all down, dear Holly ! It's so horrible what you had to go through ! I'd love to say i hope this never happens again but i just heard of that other quake in Japan yesterday... It seems just like it has no end... I feel defeated when thinking of it, and the second after i think of you and remember how strong you are ! (((HUGS)))

Lulutoo said...

Where are my tissues when I need one, dang it?! Still sniffling. I'm so sorry for all the trauma you had to go through, Holly. I have to admit I didn't hear about the earthquake until mid-morning on what was for you the next day. I'm so glad God was under that table with you, and keeping your whole family safe. I hope that Sela has recovered from her fears. Such an awfully heavy load for a little girl to carry. Glad she knows she doesn't have to do it alone.

Your layouts are absolutely beautiful, Holly. I have a feeling there will be more to come and I'm looking forward to seeing them. You are such an inspiration both in your art and strong character. :)

Bellaidea said...

I`m so happy you are ok. Keep praying...
Regards and have a nice weekend!

Anonymous said...

Wow Holly! Your blog is just beautiful and amazing! All these scrapbook pages are just beautiful! You are so talented!!!!

Busy Bee Designs said...

Oh Holly, this was amazing to read. I often wonder what different people were doing and how it felt when the earthquake struck. Thank you for the insightful story, it really helped me understand a little better what you went through. The pages are also beautiful of course. Continuing to pray for you,

Sinead said...

Holly, I'm in tears as I read this. I cannot imagine having lived through that, especially knowing that your kids weren't right there with you when it happened. Thank God that you were all safe. (((hugs)))