Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

I’m scheduled to write about a memory for which I’m grateful. Once again, it is very hard to choose just one. I have a tendency to write about memories most of the time so I was wracking my brain to think of something clever or creative. However, while checking my “On This Day” tab on my Facebook news feed, I came across a memory from six years, for which I am so very thankful.


Six years ago last week was the anniversary of the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami which devastated northeastern Japan. With only the 2008 Cedar Rapids flood as a reference, I cannot begin to imagine the recovery efforts needed to return to some sense of normalcy. The effects of that disaster were felt around the world, even in Cedar Rapids, as the McGarveys here (and in the St. Louis area) waited impatiently for news. You see, my beautiful niece Kim was working as a kindergarten teacher in Sendai, only 80-miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. Initially, local people reported 200 to 300 bodies already been found there. It all turned out okay for Kim, but even with all the current technology, it was hours before we knew that for sure. Hours of prayer. Hours of worry (let’s be honest – we say Christians shouldn’t worry, but we do). Hours of waiting for any little bit of news. Hours of watching devastating video. Hours of hearing rumors, hoping it’s all false.

If my memory is correct (please, no quotes here), Kim’s school ended up being a recovery location. She waited herself for news of her little students. As Americans, she and some other teachers ended up being transferred to the U.S. Air Force base at Misawa, north of the affected area. Eventually she flew home, only to return in late summer to help out again.

The numbers involved with this earthquake and tsunami are incomprehensible. The death toll was over 18,000, with over 6,000 injured. Entire towns were lost. Over 228,000 people had to live away from their homes, either temporarily or permanently. The property damage figures are staggering. Some estimate insured losses from the earthquake alone to be $34.6 billion US dollars. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents including meltdowns of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex. People within a 12 miles radius of the plant evacuated. The health results of this part of the disaster may never be comprehended. Radiation levels remain dangerously high, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company reported in 2013 that about 300 tons of radioactive water leaks into the Pacific Ocean everyday.

It is not my intent to scare people. Though I am very grateful for my niece’s safety, for many, this anniversary is a reminder of one of the worst moments in recent history. Please take some time today to hug your kids, call your mom, and pray for a nation still recovering. May my heart be moved as God’s heart.

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See the little serious flower girl? Somehow the last 28 years have passed in a blink on an eye because she’s getting married tomorrow. 

My niece Kim – a flower girl at my wedding and sweetest cousin to my boys – heads down the aisle to marry her Prince Charming Travis. She is lovely and smart, cute and sparkly, brave and loyal.

Five years ago she was in Japan during the horrible earthquake & tsunami, only a few short miles from the horrific devastation. For many hours we didn’t know if she was safe or even where she was. Completing her year as a kindergarten teacher in a Japanese school, she stayed after the earthquake to help restore some normalcy in the lives of her kids. She even went back a year later to once again aid in rebuilding a country she had fallen in love with. She’s one of my heroes. 

The middle child sometimes becomes overlooked by the antics of older & younger siblings, but Kim was always the picture of grace. I’m sure she had her moments but I lived 250 miles away so I never saw it.  She spent a week each summer with her childless Aunt Kris & Uncle Don, but I’m sure she enjoyed it more when I had babies to play with. 

Don is so honored to be included in her ceremony. He used to take her to the donut shop when he lived close and before he married me. In fact, she wasn’t so sure about her “Unca Don” picking a different “best girl” when I showed up. Took me the better part of my first weekend to win her over…pretty pathetic to see a grown woman jealous of a 3-year-old.  
Tonight I’m writing this blog as they rehearse tomorrow’s ceremony. The maneuvering of the bridal party, the squirming little ring & sign-bearers, the music, and giggles, and nervousness…all in preparation for the beginning of her new life as Mrs. Travis Barnhart. I love her and I’m so excited to see my flower girl become the bride – a little girl all grown up. 

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