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On a recent trip to our office in Japan, AmeriCares Communications Director, Leslie Gianelli, visited Ogatsu, a once-thriving coastal town transformed into a wasteland by raging tsunami waters. Nearly one year later, scenes of powerful devastation are still commonplace in Ogatsu and other towns along the coast. Here, Leslie provides a glimpse of what she witnessed that day.
Disasters the magnitude of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami lead to unforgettable images – unbelievable scenes of chaos and the resulting destruction.
In the town of Ogatsu, which was essentially obliterated by the tsunami, a full-size tour bus that came to rest on the roof of a municipal building structure has come to symbolize the immense power of the huge wave.
Witnessing this bizarre sight made me immensely sad, and brought back difficult memories of similar scenes I observed in Banda Aceh, Indonesia soon after that area was hit with an immense tsunami in 2004.
In Ogatsu, though, my focus quickly shifted from the bus on the building to dozens of small items scattered about, artifacts of the lives people led before the disaster. A twisted pink jump rope. A plastic pen. Books. Shoes. Tea cups. I wonder about the people on the bus. Did they survive? Where are they now? I took some pictures, but felt I had somehow violated the lives represented. The photos were deleted from my phone but the memory remains indelible.