Reflections on Japan

bento graphics

Of the issues commanding our attention this month, it is hard to turn one’s focus away from the situation in Japan.  Yet, herein lies a dilemma. What does one say? Though we read scores of articles, view videos again and again, and watch reports showing the faces of those living this nightmare, the magnitude of loss defies comprehension.

My one window into understanding this tragedy draws from the events of September 11, 2001. As I stood on my street corner in NYC’s West Village, I watched the iconic Twin Towers collapse into rubble. Although my eyes were fixed on the event, my brain struggled to process what was happening. I stood in a crowd of people who let out a collective gasp as these towers turned into cascading debris. Then there was silence.

Within minutes, the streets were filled with refugees from the event. Covered in gray dust, people fled in all directions seeking safety. People’s first instinct was to check on friends and colleagues, and to let loved ones know they had survived the attack. Most could be seen clasping cell phones that were of little use with the Trade Center radio towers now turned to dust. People would instead turn to posting handmade flyers in hospitals and centers in hopes of reconnecting with loved ones.

In those first hours and days, we had scant idea of what had been lost. Slowly, we learned the details and the numbers. The magnitude of the physical devastation was difficult to grasp even though we were glued to media outlets broadcasting from the site. With familiar points of reference absent, the breadth of the debris field was difficult to comprehend.

Drawing upon the memory of those awful days, I feel a closer kinship with those in Japan than I might have prior to 9/11. Still, this only intensifies my bewilderment. I cannot comprehend the scope, with entire towns laid flat, over 16,000 counted dead, and hundreds of thousands homeless. At the same time, we watch the waging of a heroic battle to avert the spread of radiation across the nation.

Yet, there is one thing I do understand: the remarkable humanity of which our species is capable. As the coastal region was first ripped apart by a quake, and leveled by a tsunami, people quickly reached out to help and comfort one another. There were no reports of looting or mayhem. Rather, we have seen a calm stoicism and a vow to rebuild their societies. Nations who at one time may have used such a calamity for purposes of self-interest, instead offer aid. Citizens from around the world who were once xenophobic, now contribute to this nation across the sea.

Traveling soon after 9/11, I was moved by the heartfelt connection communities everywhere felt with New York City following the attack. When we see others faced with the worst, we seem to show the best humanity has to offer. Despite our human shortcomings, how could one not draw hope from the ongoing momentum of humankind as it finds its voice. There is an evolution of thought and behavior afoot. With it, I grow ever optimistic we will continue to find new ways to bring a dream of a peaceful world to fruition.

***To contribute to those affected by the Japan earthquake:

Red Cross Japan:

American Red Cross [donate through iTunes]:

Doctors Without Borders:

Save the Children:


by William Repicci

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *