How I lived the greatest earthquake in the history of Japan – Part 2

We calm down as the tremors of the earthquake start to decrease. The water in the fish tank is running through the floor approaching our feet. I feel very dizzy, my hands and my jaw are shaking out of control.

My colleague Wada-san is the first one to stand up, even though we are still moving he can already keep his balance. He smiles at us, to cheer us up he says: “We need some beers!”. We laugh to keep from crying, a strange reaction after an extreme panic situation.

We all start to stand up. We go back to our desks, we look outside of the window. We see some smoke near Tokyo Tower. We can hear many sirens, the streets look frozen, the people is standing up, they don’t walk. All the cars are stopped. We are still not aware of how serious the situation is.

We check our cellphones, but we don’t have signal. We use the company wifi to check the news, we get news that the epicenter of the earthquake is located in the sea off the coast of Tohoku region and the magnitude of the earthquake is 8.9 (later it was confirmed that it had been 9.0). We are in a tsunami alert almost all over the country. Out building hasn’t stopped moving, 10 minutes have passed since it began to shake.

Cleaning up after the earthquake,地震の後のお掃除
Some coworkers cleaning up the office after the earthquake

The elevators are not working, we go down the stairs and we see several cracks on the walls.

Cracks on the walls in the building of my company, built by Shimizu Corporation

Even though the building is new and prepared to withstand big earthquakes, seeing cracks on the walls makes me worry. We go out to the street, people is walking as usual, cars are again circulating, we see a fire fighter truck pass by in front of us.

Seeing that everything is back to “normal”, we calm down a bit and we go back to our office. Big mistake! As we arrive to the 11th floor, a big aftershock starts. Again we are all on the ground under our tables, books fall down again from the shelves, again the water comes out of the fish tank, and everybody panics again, this time during two long minutes.

Lesson learned, we take what we need and we go out as soon as possible, this time using the emergency stairs, our “shelter” is this small park:

This park was our shelter after the earthquake

I calm down, I’m not shaking anymore but I feel that my body is hotter than usual. I’m thirsty but my colleague offers me a tea bottle that she has in her bag.

The funny smiles of everybody after “surviving” the earthquake start to disappear; everybody starts to look worried and sad. Everybody is trying to contact their family with their cellphones, but there’s no signal….

More posts about the March 2011 Earthquake:

5 replies on “How I lived the greatest earthquake in the history of Japan – Part 2”

Funnily enough the first thing we did after the quake was to head to the bar for a couple of quick beers before heading home. It was definitely the right decision at the time.

Cracks are to be expected. As long as the builders didn’t short on the rebar, anything made of ferro-concrete that isn’t too tall should be fine.

Years ago, we lived on the 12th floor of a 13-story ferro-concrete apartment once upon a time. Even a tremor made for some tense moments.


I hope your all hanging in over there.

Best of luck. You’re all in our thoughts wishes and prayers. 🙂

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