Wednesday, March 16, 2011


As the horrifying events in Japan have unfolded over the past days, I’ve been very aware of being a mere onlooker, safe on the other side of the world. But as our TV screens have poured out their reports from the stricken areas, I’ve found my mind filled with indelible images.

Images of swaying buildings and tumbling furniture and people holding on or running desperately as their world shook and groaned. Of an inky-black wave of muddy water rushing inland over neat, rectangular fields and carrying everything before it. Of cars and containers bobbing like corks on the surging torrent streaming along a city street. Of train carriages lying on their sides, scattered across the ground like children’s toys abandoned and forgotten. Of small wooden houses which had withstood the earthquake, only to crumple into matchwood under the force of the sea. Of debris piled higher than the houses that once stood there. Of mud and emptiness.

Now, a few days later, the images are changing, but just as unforgettable. Images of toiling rescuers, of desperate searches for those who are missing. Of stunned survivors coming home to find their world completely changed. Images of the stricken power station, rocked by repeated explosions, of workers struggling to contain and limit the danger and the damage. Elsewhere there are Images of empty supermarket shelves and silent factories, of power cuts and transport difficulties, as the utilities and conveniences we take so much for granted in developed nations falter in the face of such repeated blows.

But amidst the devastation there are images of hope, of joyful reunions after days of separation, of dogged determination to carry on or start again. The dignity, courage and stoicism of the Japanese people in the face of such overwhelming catastrophe are deeply impressive and have moved me to tears more than once. They deserve the world’s support in the enormous task of rebuilding which lies ahead.

As a distant onlooker I can do little but pray and care and try not to let tomorrow’s fast-changing news make me forget what has happened in Japan, just as I try not to forget the people of Haiti and of so many other troubled areas of our small and threatened planet. My ageing memory isn’t as retentive as it once was, but over the past days it has been filled with images which I think it may never forget, images of the overwhelming force of nature but also of the indomitable spirit of humankind.


  1. And isn't it a pity that governments don't reflect the basic goodness of the majority of most of the people they govern...and why is that?

  2. Oh dear, just the majority...sorry for the infelicity of expression.
    Just so annoyed that the efforts of ordinary people count for nothing with their masters.

  3. You have written a moving account of the events we are all witnessing. We see before our eyes multiple horrors, an encyclopedia of our worst fears. We see a modern country, no unlike our own in the U.K. that has been brought to its knees by forces that have nought to do with men. And those events have led to an outcome that is very much to do with men, but which may end up being more devastating.

  4. Don't get me started on governments, Fly! At the minute I'm sure the authorities in Japan are doing all they can to cope with the immediate crisis, but once the rebuilding starts, just watch the vested interests come into play.

    Broad, it's the sheer precariousness of modern society which has been so starkly highlighted for me by the events in Japan. Our apparently stable way of life is more vulnerable than we ever imagined and some at least of that vulnerability is self-inflicted.


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