Japan, I might have left but I have not lost hope.
It is true, I left Japan...I felt the tension start to drain from me as I touched down on US soil yesterday morning. Unfortunately, I am not fully joyous, I left with a sad heart for the people of Japan whom I have come to admire, respect and in the current situation - feel sorrow for.
(Side note...I have tried to write this post several times and each time given up frustrated because I simply could not find the right words to describe the chaos)
Sleep deprived and stressed I made the decision to push on with Nick and my plans (plans that we had made over a month before the Earthquake) for me to Space A out of Japan and spend a couple weeks with him in the States. Space available flights (or Space A as we call them) are scheduled military flights that us dependents can try to get a spot on if we are lucky! There is no guarantee, but if you get a spot on a Space A flight, you pay around $30 for a flight! Hello? That's a steal!
The plan was for me to hopefully get on the flight that landed in Seattle and then take a commercial flight from Seattle to San Diego (again I had booked the commercial flight a couple weeks ago). But in the aftermath of "The Big Shake" I was on the fritz...was it safe enough for me to drive out to the air base that was over an hour away from our house with the gas being rationed and me not having a full tank? Was it silly for me to take that chance and drive all that way in the crazy traffic....traffic due to the stopping of trains and power outages, even though there wasn't a guarantee I would even get on a flight? Was I willing to leave the comforts of my home that I had been bunkered down in for days? (ever since the announcement was made to "stay inside" due to exposure to the radiation) And most importantly, if things got worse, was I ok with leaving my dog behind??? Most of those answers were a definite NO for me! I really was content with "sticking it out" like my fellow Japanese.
However, Wednesday morning I got a call from my parents telling me, "enough was enough" and it was, "time to come home"! In addition to the countless calls from Nick begging me to come see him.... I gave up and threw in the towel and decided to go to San Diego.
I dropped off Beretta with a friend who, like me, planned to "stick it out" until she was told otherwise. Besides, I was only going to hang out with Nick for a couple weeks and then I would be back too (so I thought)....and I kept telling myself, if I don't get a spot on the plane, then "it's not meant to be"...one of my favorite games to play!
Well, I did get a spot...whew!!!!...(again, so I thought)...but right as I was getting the confirmation that yes, "Brittany Holman you are next on the list" I got a very bad call from my friend who was watching my dog. "Britt, have you heard?" she said. "Heard what?".....
Apparently, I was supposed to get on that flight and get out of Japan...but at that moment the commander of our base made the decision to evacuate all dependents as well!
My first thought was, "Really? How did it come to this?"
My friend informed me that they were in fact now evacuating dependents on our base and she was leaving. The important question then became what did I need to do with Beretta? Forego my $30 ticket back to America, to my husband's arms that I so desperately had needed for the last month and more specifically the last week? Especially when that would mean I would be paying thousands to fly out otherwise, not to mention fighting the traffic and people in the Tokyo airport! My friends who have done just that have informed me of the hundreds upon hundreds of people SLEEPING at the airport! People who don't have tickets, but are there at the airport waiting on something to become available so they can get out!!!
"Absolutely not!" My husband said! "I want you on that plane now!
So, I boarded the plane for the US...with a nervous stomach, praying fervently that Beretta was ok and all my military family would get out safe.
I called my friend one last time, making sure she had everything she needed to get my dog out of Japan... Luckily I had had a feeling something like this would happen before I left and so I, "just in case" had left my friend with Beretta's travel kennel - complete with all the information taped to the outside and ready for departure, all her paperwork and everything else necessary for evacuating...but who knew that it would really come to that???
I landed in Seattle feeling a mixture of relief and dread..."Thank you Jesus, I am back home! But Dear Lord please watch over my Navy family and my poochaloo!"
From there, I made my scheduled flight from Seattle to San Francisco, and then San Fran to San Diego where Nick picked me up and we were finally reunited after a month of separation!
I am here but still a bit anxious...trying to catch up on sleep that just won't come. After days of hourly earthquakes, stressing over a million things, (radiation, gas and water rations, power outages, what to do with my dog, how I was going to get to Nick...etc, etc.!) and then traveling cross-country and put into a completely opposite time zone - my mind and body just don't know what to do! As my mom put it, I am "numb"!
They still haven't evacuated all the rest of the dependents on our base in Japan. (Meaning my dog is still there) I am continually checking emails with updates on their status, but it has been a rollercoaster for them! They were told over 48 hours ago to pack and get ready to evacuate...but are still waiting! The peace and patience they are having to endure is beyond words. "Lord please be with my military family still in Japan!"
The Lord is good and I feel tremendously blessed, but part of me feels like a traitor, like I fled the scene and left my passé to fend for themselves.
Before I left, I worried about petty things such as what I should pack in my very small suitcase, not knowing when I would return to Japan…all the while those poor Japanese in Northern Japan are worrying if they will survive the week!
But the Japanese haven't lost hope and so neither have I! They are a rare culture of people, people who I admire and am drawn to. In a time of crisis there were no riots, no crazy mobs, the people were calm and patient. ALL of my students emailed me or called me in the aftermath of the disaster to make sure I was ok! Me!?! Students who have no other country to escape to like I do...who have ALL their family in Japan and not just their dog and husband...these are people who in the middle of the chaos wanted to make sure their American friend was ok, a couple of them even offering me to come and stay with them! My one student who's daughter lives in the heart of Sendai - the area where the tsunami hit - emailed me to make sure I was ok, even though she has her own worries....her daughter is without food, water, electricity, gas AND is stranded! Those are the people I feel I have abandoned...they are not jumping ship and I took the first life boat outta there!
Please continue to pray for the people of Japan…
“We are weak but HE is STRONG!!!”