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Remember the tsunami tragedy

    By Contributing Writers. March 21, 2012 - 2:09 pm

It is hard to believe that only a year ago — on March 11, 2011 — a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated Japan.

The tragedy killed 15,854 people and destroyed 3,516 houses in northern Japan; more than 30,000 people are still in temporary housing.

Though the disaster brought with it immeasurable tragedy and heartbreak, it is now time to start seeking ways to pass down the story of that tragic day.

I still remember the exact moment it happened. A warning siren rang out through Waikiki, cautioning people to move to higher ground.

I didn’t know exactly what was happening or why the sirens were going off until I got a phone call from my friend.

She told me I should call my family in Japan as soon as possible. My gut told me then that something bad had happened in Japan.

I desperately tried to get in touch with my parents, but I couldn’t get through. I started to panic.

My friends and I rushed to the lobby to see if there were any reports about the earthquake.

The second I saw the TV screen, I did not recognize the horrific image that showed the tsunami washing away houses, cars and people.

“Please, someone say it is just a bad dream,” I wished.

However, soon after I heard the reporter’s explanation of what was going on, the little hope I had left was gone. I finally began to realize just how serious this disaster really was.

I can still remember the tragedy as if it were just yesterday — the panic, the confusion.

Even though I had so much anxiety after the earthquake happened, the fear of it happening again is slowly becoming smaller and smaller.

This loss of fear has made me realize that as time goes on, I worry that people will become careless about the dangers of tsunamis and will forget about all the suffering the Japanese people endured — unless we fail to pass down the stories of exactly what happened that day.

This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that Japan will be faced with the threat of a tsunami.

Japan, especially Tohoku in northern Japan, has been the setting for earthquakes and tsunamis for decades.

In 1896, an 8.5 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami killed 21,915 people.

Our ancestors have tried to pass down many stories and warnings about the dangers of tsunami threats.

However, in the end they failed to truly prepare us, and many were unprepared when the tsunami hit — the people of Japan did not do the best in learning from their history.

People forget, and history repeats itself. Many people could have survived if they had been correctly warned about what exactly happened before.

Now it is my turn to pass down the warnings. I want to warn the people living in Hawaii of the same precautions that the people of Japan needed to hear.

Hawaii is situated in the middle of the Pacific — a direct target facing the threat of a tsunami. In fact, 61 people were killed on the Big Island in 1960 by a tsunami caused by the Great Chilean Earthquake.

I still remember my neighbors in Hawaii saying they were going to surf “the big tsunami” last March.

Of course it was just a joke, but their lack of awareness of the disaster scared me.

Nobody knows when it will happen again or where it will happen, but as long as we prepare for an emergency, remember the great damage caused by tsunamis in the past and correctly pass down stories of the disaster, we can increase the survival rate of another tsunami tragedy.

Japan correspondent