As I have looked at the videos, images and stories coming pout of Japan, the smells, sights and feelings of Hurricane Ike have washed over me like my own tsunami. I only had 53 inches of water in my house and had the discomfort of no power for almost four weeks, but I still know how it feels and I know that look on many of the faces I see in the news reports. I'm just not sure I can explain it here. It's one of those things you have to experience to really know what it feels like.
First there is just numbing shock. Not "oh my God, look at this" shock but quiet, numbing awe at what the power of nature can do and what is ahead for you in the hours, days, weeks and months to come.
You do what you have to do almost immediately because it is programmed into our DNA—you make sure you have shelter, water and food. You make sure those close to you have the same. Then, you get to work cleaning and hauling, pulling out sheetrock, furniture, clothes and memories, all to be piled in front of your house to be picked up and taken away forever.
You are working too hard to make progress to even think about sitting down to cry. Add in all the wonderful neighbors, friends and strangers who show up, uninvited, to help with that work, adding to the pile of stuff from your life previous to the damage.
I only cried once. It was when I realized the family Christmas stockings were somewhere in that pile. The one with the poodle my mom made for me when I was born. The one I attempted to make for my first son but obviously didn't have the creative talents of his grandmother. The high-heeled red velvet boot my godmother gave me one year before she died (she was flamboyant that way). The store bought one I hoped my new stepson would like (and like me).
Looking at the pile, I sat down on the curb and cried. Then, I got back to work.
I can smell it. I can see it. I am sad. But I am on the other side of a natural disaster and can only watch those in Japan and know they too will survive to buy another Christmas stocking.