I work in the 11th floor of a 12-floor building built by Shimizu Corporation in 2009; the building is supposed to withstand very powerful earthquakes. Shimizu Corporation is one of the world leaders in earthquake-resistant construction technologies.
We were in a meeting room in the 11th floor, usually we finish our weekly meeting on Fridays at 15:00, but yesterday at 14:40 we were already done. I take my laptop and go back to my desk that is next to a window with these views:
I sit down and gaze at the immensity of Tokyo to relax and have a break after the meeting. Suddenly I feel like I’m dizzy, but it’s not me, we are moving, it is an earthquake. My chair starts to move little by little, smoothly. I look back and the computer monitors and the desks are moving. We are not afraid, we are supposed to be used to earthquakes, we all wait for it to stop. Usually after some moments of shaking everything goes back to normal. But this time after around 30 seconds of small shakings, things starts to get ugly.
I look outside again, the skyscrapers are vibrating. Antennas and cables are moving violently. The whole Tokyo is shaking in front of me. Not only it doesn’t stop, but the strength of the earthquake starts to increase. Curtains violently hit the windows. The books on my desk fall, my computer monitor falls as well, desk drawers open themselves. I start to get really worried. Suddenly I realized that all my colleagues are hidden under their tables except our vice president who is standing and tells us with a forced smile: “Don’t worry, this building uses the latest technology of Shimizu Corporation”. His words don’t calm me down at all and, I don’t know why, I stand up like him and hold my desk tightly.
The building has been shaking for the last 2 minutes, now the movements slow down a little bit during some instants and I take the opportunity to go out running to the lounge that is near the emergency stairs. Nobody is moving except me, everybody is under their tables except our vice president who is still standing up holding his computer monitor. On my way, I jump over two bookshelves that have fallen, leaving many books scattered around the floor.
I arrive to the lounge where there are also tables and colleagues hiding under them. I stop and feel how another huge shaking is coming, the building is moving like crazy. This time I can’t keep standing up, the strength of the earthquake is too much, not only everything is moving from side to side, but also up and down! my feet lose contact with the floor, I feel powerless, I feel panic, I feel the power of our planet.
I see the legs of a coworker, she is hiding under a table. My instinct or maybe my fear makes me jump to the floor next to her. She sees me coming, and with one hand strongly holds my leg, and with the other hand she grabs my left hand. I feel more secure, but not for long. In that moment we both think: “This is the end”. We hug each other strongly, I close my eyes because I’m very scared. Every second is an eternity, now the final showdown is coming. We are shaking like if we were in a roller coaster. Even while sitting on the ground, the vibration of the building moves us around the floor. The noise of things falling is intense, the water of the fish tank reaches the ceiling making it wet.
The worst is over, but the earthquake hasn’t gone, the water of the fish tank is all over the place, making the books that are on the ground wet, all the building is still shaking but the earthquake is finally coming to an end. We open our eyes, we smile. But at the same time that I smile, two tears fall from my eyes. My hands are shaking, my jaw as well, I can’t control them. My coworker is much calmer than me, she says to me that the worst is over, that we are OK. I breath deeply and calm down. I think: “We, humans, are weak and something that won’t last long in the universe”. My coworker tells me: “I thought I was going to die, I don’t know why, but I felt peace in my interior”. Another two tears escape from my eyes.
Tomorrow I will continue writing my experience, until then, you can follow me on Twitter (I tweet mostly in Spanish or Japanese)
More posts about the March 2011 Earthquake: