Friday, March 25, 2011

Hope For Japan - My Story...

Hi Friends,

I want to thank so many of you for your support and phone calls, and emails, and prayers this past month since March 11th.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm half-Japanese.  My Mother is originally from just outside of Tokyo and my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, their families and our close family friends are scattered all throughout the country.  I even have a couple team members stationed there, too.

Looking back at that fateful Friday morning, I remember that I woke up earlier than normal and grabbed my phone from my nightstand to thumb through a quick text from my best friend before I even threw off the covers.  Her text said, 'There was a tsunami in Japan'. It took me a few minutes to wake up and then do the 'double take' on what I read to turn on the news to see images of the earthquake and tsunami.  I remember worrying that I would be waking my Mother up too early if I called her, but when I called her a few minutes later, she said she had been awake since about 5am because she couldn't sleep. 

You see, she had been on the phone with her sister (my Aunt) when the earthquake first happened the night before.

The amazing thing is that my Aunt lives more than 400 miles away from Sendai and she and my Uncle live in a beautiful home over 100 years old.  The Japanese are so used to earthquakes, but when she felt this one she told my Mom that she'd better get out of the house immediately because this was different and she worries with a house that old, that it could topple... and she dropped the phone to run into the street... she didn't waste time hanging it up.  Mom heard the phone click and thought her sister had hung up on her.  Later, she found out that the strength of the earthquake caused all the phone lines to go down.

Not really thinking much of it, my Mom thought she'd turn on NHK (The Japanese news station that she gets in her home here in the states to keep up with her favorite shows, the news and of course Sumo!).  There was nothing on the news for a few minutes until the news of the earthquake came and they started televising.... my parents watched the tsunami hit and everything unfold live until almost 2:30 in the morning... and of course couldn't get my Aunt back on the phone.  I can't imagine her inital panic because she seemed so calm that morning.

Thankfully, my cousins and I are on Facebook together and so I immediately thought to check and see if anyone had posted any news!  One of them had posted that his family was ok... but we didn't know about my Mom's other side of the family... and then I thought of our friends and my team members who are there, too.  Because of the time difference it felt like an eternity until they woke up for their day to bring news of everyone's safety.  By that time I had been on the phone 2 or 3 more times with my Mom to get the news translations from NHK and let her know that I hadn't yet heard any news from family... and had she heard anything, too?  That day I learned that our US news was anywhere from 1 hour to half a day or more behind on the news... and not even half as complete. 

The stories my Mother has told me and still shares with me made me cry and would break your hearts, too.  To me this feels like 9/11 again and a lot like Katrina (when we lived in AL).  But there were also stories that she told me that would inspire you, and give you hope that families are reunited and that strangers would be willing to give the shirt off their back and the kindness in their hearts... when that's all they have to give.

There is the story of the couple driving in the car and seeing the tsunami coming - the husband said 'we need to get out of the car now and run to that building to get higher' and so his wife did... but when she got to the building and turned around, her husband was gone.  

And the story of another couple who got out of their car and were swept up with the debris to cling for their lives in a tree through the very cold night... when things calmed down a bit, they realized that vehicles were passing them by just a few hundred feet away on a raised freeway as they shouted for help, but no one could see them because of the pitch black. There was no electricity or lights.  By God's grace they were rescued as soon as daylight exposed them. 

And the story about the mother who just came home from grocery shopping with her baby to experience the earthquake and run as fast as she could to the freeway that was the highest point closest to her.  All the people on the bridge quickly surrounded her and the baby as the tsunami approached so they would not get wet and get hypothermia when the water came splashing over the side of the freeway... they both stayed dry and everyone else on that freeway bridge got wet... but survived.

I watched the story on the news of the company president and owner who's Sake factory was destroyed by the tsunami.  He was obsessed with going from shelter to shelter to find every single one of his employees and their families.  You could see him clutch each employee he discovered with such fierceness and happiness that they were alive... at the same time holding back sobs knowing that others might not be.  He said he would not stop until he knew where they all were, and that he would re-build.

My Mom kept saying over and over that morning... the buildings are burning everywhere and fires can not be stopped because it is so dark with no power and the roads are destroyed by the earthquake or tsunami so even if the firemen are there, they are helpless to help.  No one could go in to rescue anyone for at least a day or two because aftershocks would occur every 5-10 minutes and could be felt through Japan... triggering constant tsunami alerts and dangerously shifting debris.  Our friends tell us they can not sleep well at night for fear that another big one is coming, and the aftershocks seem to come from everywhere!  (and still continue with great strength... still above M5.0 along the Honshu coast).  And yet, another dear friend has been deployed there and she says... "flew here via helicopter and saw some of the destruction... you can never prepare yourself for the image of entire cities wiped out."

Can you even imagine?  Didn't it seem like you were watching a movie and that it couldn't possibly be real?

I mean, there are ships on buildings... houses in the ocean... people on the roof-tops... and planes, cars, and wood snapped and twisted like match-box cars as they were crashed into every nook and cranny like my kids throwing their toys into the corner of their room when I ask them to clean up... except it's not.

I know I'm writing a long post, but it feels good to write it down and share this with you. I also know that it's easy to begin to feel detatched to this situation because just days later our news has moved onto other news in the world.  It makes me sad to know Japan is no longer headline news for our fast-paced world - and their country still has yet to find everyone.

When I started writing this about a week ago, it was reported that over 9,000 people have been found dead with 14,000 still missing.  I can't believe the news when I read that over 12,300 are now confirmed dead with more than 15,000 people still reported missing.  My heart is saddened that we haven't even found half of the people who have disappeared almost a month ago!

Eastern Japan has scheduled blackouts to conserve energy, trains are on different schedules, babies are getting bottled water, everyone knows what a milisievert is.... their way of life has been transformed.

When one of my Close To My Heart team members alerted me to the fact that our company founder, Jeannette Lynton, had announced the Hope For Japan fundraiser with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross to benefit relief efforts in Japan - I had so many feelings. I still can't help but get a little teary eyed and realize how extraordinary this is.

I'm inspired, grateful, and deeply moved that she has generously donated her gifts and resources to help people half the world away.  Thank you, Jeanette for giving the shirt off your back!!!

It's my goal to sell as many of these sets as humanly possible so we can help as much as possible... 

Please support me in this endeavor by ordering your stamp set from me, then sharing this opportunity to help with your friends to give Hope For Japan and their people.  I'm so happy to report I've raised almost $200 with your help!  THANK YOU!!!!

Thank you for allowing me to share my experience and feelings about this situation. While I'm an American, I also feel deeply connected to my Japanese heritage and the people there who are so kind and monumentally generous.  I want them to know that Americans are the same way, too... don't you?!  

My email is - please send me a note with how you'd like to help and I will call or email you back as soon as I possibly can!

With much gratitude and love,


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