Near midnight Friday, Rick and I boarded one of three buses traveling north to Higashi Matsushima. We were on a youth trip planned by leaders in our district (Rick is the district YM’s president). Higashi Matsushima is an area that was hit very hard by the earthquake and tsunami because it’s right on the coast.
We divided up into 12 teams. Our team ended up being quite small, but we had hard workers. The assignment given to everyone at the volunteer center on Saturday was the same, to clean the sludge out of the gutters. The gutters were covered with concrete slabs that were pried out with a crowbar on the smaller narrower gutters. The wider deeper gutters require a jack to lift the heavy concrete slabs.
This was labor intensive work and yet the youth and adults were cheerful and grateful to be able to help.
After the days work we changed, ate curry rice in the parking lot and got back on the bus for the 6 hour return trip. Before leaving the area, we went to see some of the devastation nearer the coast. It seems like it would have been impossible for anyone to have survived in the community we went to see. I was told that they only had a few minutes warning before the tsunami and the escape route was across a bridge to the other side of the river. There isn’t any higher ground nearby. Cars were everywhere, including the cemetery. Visiting here was a very emotional experience. I felt like I was an intruder. It will take a long time for this area to recover. It will be a long time before rice will grow in the fields again. Trees are dying because of the salt water. It was hard to control my tears and impossible to imagine the horror of that day.