By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Visiting Japanese professor Chie Morizuka, talking to Callisburg junior high students, told them of the dead.
She recounted her recent experience of watching a tsunami sprawl across the northeastern coast of Japan.
More than 10,000 people were killed and some 15,000 more are missing, Morizuka told them Friday. On March 11, she had stood in a bank in Chiba, Japan, and felt the tremors of an 3-minute earthquake. This soon created a wave that ran as high as 30 feet and decimated houses, buildings, cities, people. The bank’s electricity had failed but blinked on in time for Morizuka and other trapped customers to watch the ruin on television.
“Many people lost many things,” she said. “They don’t have family pictures.”
But Morizuka’s trip to Callisburg ISD had actually been planned prior to the tsunami. The local district has been associated with the Japanese Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program since 2005 — and has hosted many Japanese educators just as the city of Kesenuma has hosted teachers and administrators from North Texas. The educator was originally set to spend Thursday and Friday on the Callisburg campus discussing places, not a single event.
March 11 changed this. Morizuka said it almost meant she didn’t come here.
The anticipated give-and-take between cultures instead became a request for help and remembrance.
“I think my trip can contribute in a sense,” Morizuka said to a class of young students during a rotation through campus. “I need your cooperation in thinking about them and to keep helping them.”
A program called “The Third Responders Initiative” is informally underway. The professor explained to students that in a calamity such as the March 11 tsunami, the first responders are policemen, firefighters and rescuers. The second responders are doctors, hospital staff and organizations such as the Red Cross. But those people, she said, can attend to a situation only so long before being needed elsewhere. Repairs, recovery and full restoration to Japanese cities has an estimated timeline of five years. Added to the physical damage, Morizuka told the students, the tsunami’s destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has precipitated a moderate risk of widespread radiation poisoning.
“We shouldn’t react too much,” she admitted. ‘Be calm, get proper information to think what we should do. But radiation is a big concern.”
The exchange program between Callisburg ISD and Kesenuma has thus expanded for recruitment of American volunteers. It has been organized by the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund.
“We should help the people who need help for a long period,” she said.
But right now, the only action required is moral support. Retired Callisburg teacher Tim Jones, a program associate, said potential volunteers can visit Facebook and post messages of hope on the “Third Responders Initiative” page.
“Later it will become more of a direct aid program,” Jones said. “It may be months before that happens. Then we’ll have needs assessments and more about who needs to help most, where the most.”