Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.7 Ms. Mikiko MATSUNO

Barely escaped the approaching tsunami.
On the way back to school, my mobile phone to my husband miraculously went through. He said, “Evacuate just in case a tsunami should arrive because the tide is ebbing.” It was right after that the tsunami arrived. He could not sleep a wink on the boat for fear of the next wave and fought against despair and fear all night.
At that very moment when I talked with him on the phone, my daughter and I started for school to bring blankets which she took out of the closet.
Thanks to the red light which was about 500m from the beach, I could take a glance at the rearview mirror. The rainbow in the rearview mirror made me aware of the tsunami. No sooner I shouted, “Look behind! The tsunami may come!” than my daughter screamed, “Mom, it’s coming! I can see from here!” “What’s coming? What? A tsunami?” I said the tsunami myself, but I was wondering why a tsunami had come.
Until then I was driving slowly so that the blankets should not be carried away by the wind. But at once I changed up to the top gear and hurried to school where children were waiting. However fast I drove, she shouted, “Mom, faster!” I was wondering how far the tsunami would reach, how many children I could take on our light truck. And I said to myself, “It’s meaningless if my family cannot evacuate all together!” I had no other ideas in my mind.

Escaped by a hairbreadth
I could enter the schoolyard directly, thanks to the rope of the entrance which was usually drawn was untied. However, the children were not there who had been there just before. I thought they moved into the gym to avoid the cold. Getting off the car, I opened the door of the gym, but they were not there, neither.
No sooner I breathed a sigh of relief than my daughter shouted, “Hurry up! Tsunami! There!” But I said, “No problem. Don’t worry. We won’t die if we were submerged here” and got into the car. She yelled at me, “Don’t be silly!” Until then, I left everything up to her to watch how the tsunami was approaching. It was for the first time that I looked at it with my own eyes.
Masses of debris surged right there.
I drove the car, but the red light blocked our entering into the national highway. What’s worse, cars kept passing, we could not move. “That’s it,” I thought. At that moment, a car stopped in front of us and I could barely move forward towards the highway. Immediately after that, masses of debris reached, and we could escape by a hairbreadth. The elementary school was about 3km away from the seashore. It has originally been designated as a shelter. Nevertheless, the tsunami attained a height of 1.2m, and the 1st floor of the school building was completely ruined. I thought that most of the children would be dead whether they were on the schoolyard or in the gym. Of course, their parents who came to school worrying about their children, neighbors who evacuated and ourselves would also be dead.

Evacuation site changed into a shelter.
Later, I heard of a story of a local old man who said, pointing to a hill called Sakuradayama, “In the past, that hill used to be an emergency evacuation site. Are you going to kill my grandchild?”
No one was caught up in such an extensive damage as this. It was thanks to this old man and the principle who trusting the wisdom of their ancestors – they do not tell a lie, made a decision at once to change the evacuation site. We were really saved.
The person who had untied the rope died in the tsunami. I do not know, even now, the reason why she untied the rope because her car was found outside the schoolyard. She was a close friend of our family: of myself, my husband and all our children. That night, the evacuation site where we were became the shelter.
We passed a night there. The aftershocks registering 4-plus on the Japanese seismic scale continued. Children were terrified and cried. Some people went outside at all aftershocks. Those who could not find their families wept.
It was so painful that I had no other idea than leaving here. The following day, early in the morning, taking my children with me, I headed for my sister’s house in the neighboring city.
Although all my family were safe, there were a lot of people who lost their families and/or relatives. Also, many people in my neighborhood were dead.