Saturday, June 21, 2014

Looking for the 'There' There Pt. IV

In the morning I go catch a bus at Minami Kesennuma Station, which is nowhere near the old station since the old station is no longer there.  I am joined on the bus by children on their way to school, noisy and rambunctious like schoolkids everywhere.  There was little outside the bus to distract, since the fog was even thicker than yesterday, hanging low over everything.  It was impossible to see the water, even when I was right beside it. 

I get off the bus in Minami Sanriku, at a station that had a funky cylindrical design, like a tin can turned on its side.  Beside it is the town's new shopping arcade, consisting of a series of huts that serve as shops and restaurants.  Tables sit out at the common area between.  Not far away, another hut is being used as Family Mart convenience store.  I stroll through, still quiet at this early hour, then turn into the fog. 

I move in the direction of the sea.  Block after block I go, amongst the fog, amongst the weeds.  Minami Sanriku too had been victim to the previous tsunamis that had struck this area, but this last one has taken away 95% of the town.  All I can see is the faint outline of where streets had once been. 

A shape begins to come out of the fog.  The sole structure remaining is the former crisis management center, where a young woman had remained at her desk, giving alerts over the loudspeakers until the waves took her.  This shell of a building stands in her memory.  At its base stand two jizo statues, and beside them, the dozens of paper crane offering are a testament to the people who come to show appreciation for her sacrifice.  

I continue to the shore.  There is a quiet dignity here without all the construction.  My feet pass over an old sign pointing the way to a tsunami evacuation center, two hundred and fifty meters away.  The emptiness beyond extends at least a thousand meters more. 

I come to the sea gates, built after the 1960 Chilean tsunami, now smashed shut.  I pass these too and walk to the very edge of the water, the closest I've yet been.  Tiny waves lap the shore.  Gulls flit about, landing atop debris piled nearby.  The fog is still thick, and I stand looking out where the sea should be.  

On the turntable:  Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Freaky Styley"

1 comment:

Alex Hurst said...

The story of that woman brought tears to my eyes.