‘Miraculous discovery’ in Japan

Japan needs a miracle. So do we all.

This suffices.

An 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson were rescued Sunday after being buried under rubble for nine days after the worst recorded earthquake in Japanese history and a massive tsunami toppled their home.

The two were trapped in their kitchen after the magnitude 9 temblor struck March 11 and survived by wrapping themselves in towels and eating yogurt and drinking, water, milk and Coke, Japanese news reports said.

Where they were trapped was providential. How the 80 year old grandmother reacted to such life-threatening adversity was positively noble. Her legs had been pinned under a refrigerator. But…

Sumi Abe was able to say her name and to tell rescuers that she was unhurt.

How many of us would say ‘I’m okay’, after all that? It’s an honorable moment for the triumph of the human spirit.

The chance of survival so long after such a two-prong disaster is considered minuscule.

But, the story notes, “more and more victims are being recovered.” So out of this dreadful and destructive ordeal, comes life and hope.

Akita Shrine at the epicenter

The news pouring out of Japan in the aftermath of back-to-back disasters and ongoing crises like the explosion at the nuclear plant on Saturday can’t cover it all, and we can’t even estimate if it covers the half of it.

But one story covered just about nowhere except in the Catholic news media is about what happened at the convent in Akita, both historically and immediately.

The epicenter of the earthquake that caused a deadly March 11 tsunami is located near the site of an apparition in which Mary warned about a worldwide disaster that could afflict humanity.

Japanese church officials have confirmed that the Diocese of Sendai, in the north of the country, was hit hardest by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake – the worst in Japanese history – and the resulting 23-foot waves.

Hundreds of people have already been confirmed dead in the city of Sendai, located less than 90 miles away from the apparition site of Our Lady of Akita in the town of Yuzawa.

The city of Akita, which experienced fire damage and flooding along with many parts of northern Japan, is a place of veneration for Catholics.

Evidently, it was spared the worst of the damage.

Japan’s disaster

You can see a hurricane coming. But violent eruptions of nature like the back to back assaults of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake followed by a deadly tsunami just happen. With no warning. They are stunning in their randomness and fury and they are terrifying because of both. And because it could happen anywhere, anytime.

Just like that day after Christmas 2004, sunny and normal in every other way in Thailand until the ocean roared onto land in that devastating tsunami. How many adjectives are there to replace ‘devastating?‘ How many ways are there to describe what we’re seeing on television screens coming out of Japan? I can’t look anymore, when they loop those videos that replay particularly the scene of the ocean storming onto the land, destroying and dragging along everything in its path. It’s not just that it’s so breathtakingly unnatural and scary. It’s mainly that in those cars and trucks and houses and buildings smashed and tumbled violently along in that dark black racing water, there were people. And in that moment when the violent roaring sea engulfed whatever held them, they were killed. Death on a mass scale of unknown numbers of individual human beings as the world watches in horror.

We see the violence of nature. But we don’t see them. Thankfully, for us and for them. Let’s give them their dignity in that death by lifting up a prayer for their eternal rest. And for the grace of God to help the survivors and workers who must contend with the aftermath of this. As it will undoubtedly also require dealing with aftershocks and the possibility of more quakes.

Help is on the way, and many major media are providing lists of relief efforts for readers and viewers to contribute in whatever way they find best. Here are a couple more, which in the early going hadn’t had the time to update their websites with this latest humanitarian relief effort. I’m glad they didn’t, it probably meant they were too busy rushing together the responders and resources they’re sending to Japan, among the other places they’re already bringing aid.

Caritas International.

And Catholic Relief Services.

On one of the evening newscasts in the US checking in with foreign correspondents on the scene in Japan about the morning after, an Economist correspondent did a good job of telling what it was like to be there when the earth moved violently and fear set in and people took to the streets to find a place of safety. He said out on the city streets, crowds moved along with composure, and when the traffic light turned red, pedestrians all stopped and waited before crossing the street. The street that wasn’t moving anyway, because vehicles were gridlocked. “What’s most important in cases like this is order,” he said. “And the Japanese are highly ordered people.”

May they also be blessed with the grace to endure the coming days, and recover from the one just passed.