Suddenly the joyful activities stopped. The house started shaking vigorously, and there was a deep and loud sound, like the rumbling of a train driving through your ground floor. I had never felt so scared in my life before. Somebody shouted earthquake! I quickly turned my head towards the voice. A man sat on his knees in a corner, clinging to a chair. Nobody else reacted before the second part of the earthquake hit us. That’s when the panic spread in the room. People started screaming and shouting. I understood little of what they said, most of them screamed on Japanese. I tried to pick up some words. I heard garage, run and no time. Of course. The garage was built of solid concrete. We would be safe there. People started pushing through the tiny door opening, which lead to the stairway. I waited in the back. I didn’t want to hurt myself, trying to get through. I took a quick look over my shoulder before I followed the rest of the people down the stairs and into safety. This could be the last time I would ever see my office again.
It was a long way from 23th floor down to the garage. The earthquake was still going on. All I could do was to pray for the stairs not to collapse under my feet. We were now on the 10th floor. I thought about how we were going to survive in the garage. No water, no air, no love.
We reached the garage. The shouting and screaming had now turned into low whispering and talking. I was surprised of how calm and quiet everyone was. The only loud noise I could here was my boss. “Ok, people, calm down! I know it’s bad, but we can get through this! Just stay calm!” he shouted. It seemed like he tried to calm everybody down. But everyone had already found a place on the floor, and wasn’t really panicking anymore. I guess he just tried to stay calm himself. After awhile, my boss also stopped talking. It was quiet. I started thinking of my family, my Japanese wife and my two kids. Sometimes I wished I lived with them in the village. But I had to live here in Tokyo. I had to make money for them and myself. I wanted to call, but I couldn’t get any signals here.
I walked over to the other side of the room. Nothing was shaking anymore, but everyone was still lying on the floor like they were dead. Everyone except me and my boss. He looked really stressed. He’s eyes went from one side of the room to the other, and he took a deep breath every 5th second. “Are you sure you’re OK?” I asked him. “What? Me? Yes, of course...there is nothing to be afraid of. Just a little bit of shaking. No big deal” he said, very unconvincing.”Well, the shaking has actually stopped. I think it’s safe to go outside. You know, check if everything is OK in other buildings”. “Yes, of course. I was about to say that myself” he said. Again, very unconvincing.
He walked to the middle of the room, stepping on a couple of hand n the way. “Excuse me! It’s now safe to go outside!” he announced. Nobody moved. “I said, it’s safe to go outside!” he said again.
The reason nobody was reacting, was that everyone had fell asleep. Actually that was kind of smart, instead of stressing themselves, such as my boss did. “Uhm, I think we can go out ourselves. Let them sleep, they need it.” I said. “Fine, then let’s go then. No time to loos” my boss answered. I walked towards the gate, opened it, and my boss followed me outside.
When we got out, the traffic had already started to move again. I understand that it’s busy here in Tokyo, but it could be smart to put the safety of the people before making money. But for me it was a good thing that the busses were up and running. “What should we do now?” my boss asked me. “Well, I want to go visit my family” I said. “You can do anything you want to I guess, everything seems to be under control here”. “Fine, I’ll just go to a coffee shop or something then” he answered. I watched him walk careless down the street, before he disappeared behind a corner.
I sat down at the bench on the bus stop and waited. I thought about how quick this was over. It was like it never happened. People walked normally down the street and cars drove as they would normally do. The only difference was the silence. Normally I could hear the people talking and shouting over the cars. Now everyone walked with their head down. I guess they were still in shock.
The bus was full as normal. But still, nobody said anything. Neither did I. I sat by the window, gazing out on the big, orange fields, just as I had done for the last 45 minutes or so. In front of us there were tiny houses and farms. I saw cows and horses that had escaped from their houses, and desperate farmers that tried to catch them again, with no luck. I laughed for the first time in many hours. I realised everybody was staring at me. I shouldn’t laugh, I thought, while I tried to sink as deep into my seat as possible and make myself as not noticeable as possible.
The rode became bumpier. The earthquake must have dug up the asphalt, I thought. We got closer and closer to the ocean and the village. I hoped my family was OK. And that their house, that wasn’t exactly top quality, was still standing. It was about 5 minutes left before we arrived the village. That’s when I saw a small, light blue stripe in the horizon. I didn’t bother to care at first, but it seemed to grow bigger. The people on the bus reacted too. It had to be something bad.
The bus started to slow down. I could see my wife’s house now. “No, please, don‘t stop the bus! I need to see my family!” I shouted at the driver. “Sorry, we have to leave” he said. “At least let me off before you go back!” I screamed desperately. “Are you sure?” he asked me “yes, I’m sure” I answered. But I really wasn’t. The stripe had now developed into a wall. A big, blue wall. Of water. I knew what it was. I knew that if I went to my family’s house now, I was risking my own life. But after 3 years without them, I had to take the chance.
I started running down the road. There were no cars what so ever. The little house was just a couple of metres from me now. But so was the wave. “Honey! Honey! I’m here!” I screamed as loud as I could for her to hear me. I heard a baby screaming. It was Jonathan. They were home. Alive.
I opened the door and found my family under a table. “We’ve got to run” I said. My wife turned her head up towards me and looked at me with tears in her eyes. “No. There’s no point of that now. All we can do is to wait” she cried. I knew she was right, but I tried to make myself believe that we were going to make it. I kneeled with my head in my hands. It was over. Everything.
The wall collapsed. Everything happened so fast, but it felt like slow motion. I held my wife’s hand in one hand and the hands of my two sons in the other. The water hit me. I was thrown around.
I refused to let go of my family. My eyes were open, but all I could see was wood, dirt and water.
I was amazed over how long I could hold my breath for. The tight grip of my family’s hands loosened. They were gone. My heart was beating like crazy, but I was calm. I knew it was over now. They were gone. Free of sadness and free of fear. I saw my two year old son close his eyes for the last time. I did the same, still holding all of the three hands in mine.