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Japanese New Yorkers worry about those at home

Miyagi Prefecture was hard hit by both the

Miyagi Prefecture was hard hit by both the earthquake and tsunami. Photo Credit: Getty Images

After three sleepless nights of frantic but futile texting, emailing and phone calls, Miki Takahashi, 32, received a phone call from an aunt in Japan yesterday morning.

“They’re alive!” exclaimed Yuniko Echigen of Yokohama.

Takahashi, of Clinton Hill, burst into tears. Both her home and hometown of Natori were demolished, buried beneath a roiling river of flaming water.

But her mother, father and two brothers were safe. Still in question are the whereabouts of childhood friends and how to accept the loss of her once idyllic, and now drowned, home and farm town.

“The baby albums I wanted to show my boyfriend are gone,” shared a tearful Takahashi. “The graves of my grandparents – also gone.”

Japanese Americans in New York reflected on the lessons learned in the disaster and the heroism of their compatriots. Japanese children grow up participating in earthquake drills and learning to think of others before themselves, so the lack of chaos was not a surprise.

“We stay calm. We have a lot of resilience. That’s what I’m really proud of,” said Junko Yamasaka-De La Rosa, 32, of Sunnyside.

The resilience of Tokyo’s high rises proved a testament to Japanese civil engineering and the wisdom of enforcing strict safety codes, noted Noriko Okaya, 32, of Astoria. “In a lot of other places, the buildings would have collapsed,” she noted.

But radiation leakage from the damaged nuclear energy resonated in a country that suffered the horrendous aftermath of atomic bombs in 1945.

“We need to develop energy that is safe and friendly to humans and the earth,” said Takahashi.
 

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