The second story in my ongoing miniseries on eyewitness stories from survivors of the earthquake and tsunami, Japan 2011. These are the stories normally used as part of my background research, but deserving so much more, they are now being put together here. Read the first story and more about the series here or carry on reading the second story below.
“Every time I think about this story it leaves me speechless. It’s almost unreal how our human paths can cross each other in ways that seem impossible, but still as if they were meant to be.
I have a neighbor and dear friend who was the ex-wife of a monk, and despite their separation, they had remained in very good terms and close contact. Her ex-husband lived in his temple in another city and she was here, next to my house.
After the earthquake and tsunami, my neighbor had been evacuated to safety. As the days passed by and she still had no news of her former husband, she got worried, but was helplessly unable to go to the city of the temple and where he used to live.
At the same time, in another part of Japan, far south of the disaster area, somebody else was worried about the monk. A friend and fellow monk had had no signs of life from the north for a period longer than he liked. To learn the fate of his friend, he set out on foot and walked for several days to get to the city of the monk. The temple is located in one of the worst hit areas of the disaster. The monk was shocked as he looked over the remains of the city. From eyewitness stories he was able to put together the pieces of a terrible puzzle.
After the big earthquake the ex-husband had opened the doors of his temple for people to evacuate from the rising water. But as the water kept rising the temple eventually had to be evacuated as well. When the water came in higher and higher the monk helped people out towards higher ground. With everybody out, the monk returned one last time to his temple. Another wave hit and the monk was washed away in the black, muddy water, and disappeared.
Now the monk that came by foot looking for his friend, happens to be an old friend of mine, he knows that I live in the same city as the ex-wife. When he returned to his home he wrote me a letter explaining the whole story, asking me to find the ex-wife and bring the letter to her. What he didn’t know though, was that the wife lives just next door to me.
As I read the letter I started shaking and felt the tears running down my face. I knew I had to bring my neighbor terrible news. Minutes later, I felt utterly helpless as I watched her read the letter, breaking down in tears on the floor.”