|Local teenager shares his devastating story with the LHS group.|
"March 11 was my junior high school graduation day. The ceremony was in the morning, so in the afternoon I was in the shopping center with three of my friends," he said. At the time, he was fourteen years old. "When the earthquake hit, we saw many people who were injured by glass; there was blood everywhere. It was horrible scenery. Fortunately, my friend's parents took us from the shopping center and drove to a convenience store.
"I kept calling my family, but I couldn't contact them. I was thinking about them. My grandpa is in a wheelchair, and I thought that my grandma couldn't help him by herself.
"We were in the vehicle when we could see the TV (at the convenience store)," he said. "We could see that the northern part of Japan was hit by a huge tsunami. The thought, 'What was that?' ran through my head. We were all panicked."
The storyteller explained that he wanted to go back to his home, but his friend's parents told him that it was too dangerous too.
"At the convenience store, people were running towards the mountains and yelling, 'There's a tsunami coming! Escape! Escape!' On the TV, I could see a black, big wave swallowing houses and cars. We got in the car and drove away from the road, which was blocked with cars. We saw many people on the road (in the cars); I worried about them escaping."
The speaker eventually met with his family; all seven members including his grandparents had evacuated. They could not stay in the evacuation center because their family was too big for the capacity. The next day, he remembered picking up the newspaper and seeing photos of the tsunami.
"The picture on the front page was of my area," he said. "My first thought was that it was the ocean. When I realized that it was my neighborhood, I couldn't cry. I was just empty."
He recalled going back to his area with his family.
"Our house was totally devastated. When I saw it, I started crying. We started searching out things. Everything was rusted. Nothing could be brought back, so we left it," he said.
"Many of our neighbors were our relatives. We saw a familiar car on the road," he said, then paused. "It was my uncle's car. My parents tried to tell me and my brothers not to come, but I could see uncle's body was in the car." He paused. "I loved that uncle."
"Some of my classmates were missing. The newspapers showed the missing names, and my closest childhood friend was on that list. I remember crying all night," he said. "Seven classmates were killed in the tsunami. When I was reunited with my classmates, my teacher told us who was dead. We all cried. I was angry. I thought over and over again, 'Why am I still alive?'"
His classmates had to relocate to the elementary school in the area for their studies since their school had been destroyed in the tsunami. Although they had graduated, the students were still preparing for their high school entrance exams.
"Three friends and I were asked to participate in a discussion about the reconstruction of Yuriage Area," he said. "We decided to create many chances for my junior high school class to reunite. We think it's important to maintain that bond since we went though the experience together.
Two years later, he is almost done with senior high school.
The room was very somber as he shared his story with the group. A handful of the LHS group members were brought to tears during the story, while others were heavily sobered for a while thereafter.