Student Struggled to Contact Family in Japan Post Earthquake

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Spring break didn’t start off ideal for USF senior Rafai Eddy. While getting a haircut on March 10, his younger brother called him on the phone alerting him of some news—Japan had been hit with a 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

Immediately after, he turned to news casts and used every possible mode of communication to contact his mom in Asagaya, Tokyo, who lives with his maternal grandmother.

Eddy’s mom eventually sent him a Facebook message to notify him that she was fine. Later he found out that his grandma was also safe at home.

None of his family’s valuables were damaged by the earthquake. Had things turned out worse, Eddy said, “I can’t imagine losing my family members in such a way. It’s just devastating.”

Eddy, who is half Japanese and half Trinidadian, grew up in Japan before coming to USF. Eddy’s father left to visit relatives in Trinidad days before the earthquake, and Eddy had to break the news to him about the earthquake via e-mail.

Eddy kept close contact with his friends from Japan who “didn’t seem too worried about it. So that gave me a sign of relief. But it was definitely stressful.”

According to Eddy, Tokyo’s solid infrastructure kept the city from experiencing far worse damages and that people in Japan are used to having earthquakes once or twice a month, but his mom was not prepared for one with such a massive impact.

Professor of Asian Studies Stephen Roddy said that temples and shrines are now being used as shelters since they are built at higher elevations.

When news of the increasing radiation levels broke out, Eddy said the radiation level in his hometown of Asagaya was at eleven percent. His mom contemplated leaving the country, but since Japanese news reports did not advise civilians to evacuate, she decided to stay.

Rafai Eddy and Family courtesy of Rafai Eddy
Senior soccer player Rafai Eddy was born and raised in Asagaya, Tokyo. (Courtesy of Rafai Eddy)

Many children lost their parents due to the earthquake and tsunami. Many of these casualties live in Sendai,the city most impacted by natural disasters. Eddy’s mom is considering adopting children.

“It makes me feel bad that I can’t do anything right now to help those people individually, but I really want to,” Eddy said, “I haven’t been through what they’ve been through, but I have the utmost respect for them.”

Eddy was baptized Catholic, though not an active churchgoer,  and, he said, “I definitely took my time to pray for the victims and for Japan as a whole, that and my family’s safety.”

What’s most striking, Eddy suggested, is Japan’s quick readiness to restore their country. Eddy describes Japan’s response to the disaster by saying that “people figure stuff out quickly.”

He said that Japan has an advantage, compared to the locations of other natural disasters in recent years, such as the Haiti earthquake, because people there live to work and they’re going to get the work done.

Eddy said, “I’m really happy and proud about what people are doing in Japan right now to help the situation. This is our country and this is what we have to do. We have to help and we have to do it fast.”

Roddy suggested that Japan’s actions were representative of Japanese culture.

“I think,” he said, “that the strong desire to care for the victims and bring early relief to the affected areas does reflect a certain community solidarity across Japanese society” and related to the Shinto, a Japanese spiritual belief.

Eddy is currently at the university on a soccer scholarship and majoring in International Business graduating in spring, at which point in time he will most likely move back to Japan. Along with his younger brother, Eddy hopes to find a summer job to help rebuild Sendai.

Eddy said, “[The earthquake and tsunami] really gives you a reality check. I was lucky enough not to lose anything but it’s always that thought of what if.”

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

News Editor: Ericka Montes

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