Just because the shattering earthquake, tsunami and nuclear near-catastrophe in Japan earlier this month are no longer dominating the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t mean the human devastation there has ended. Countless people there now face the prolonged, daunting, in some cases insurmountable task of rebuilding their lives.
Three of those people, a missionary couple and their daughter, have a tenuous Northeast Missouri connection. Their father is a friend of Palmyra residents Wendell and Jan Kreider, themselves friends of David Lomax of the Lewis County Emergency Management Agency, who shared their story with us. The Gabe and Stephanie Craft family is originally from South Carolina, and they are safe in Japan, but all their worldly goods are gone.
Stephanie Craft wrote this account on March 14, three days after the earthquake and tsunami struck:
On Friday afternoon, as you all know, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook the country of Japan. (Editor’s note: It was later upgraded to a 9.0.) Gabe was at school across the bay and I was home in Jinomori with Violet.
When the earthquake started, I ran outside with Violet. We had no shoes or coats on, as it happened so suddenly. I struggled to make it down the street to where my some of my neighbors were standing and holding on to some steel poles. They held out their arms to me, and then we all wrapped our arms around Violet. She began to cry, and the shaking became more and more severe and also probably because my heart was beating out of my chest. There was an explosion at the power plant that we could see from where we were standing, and we all screamed out loud as the sparks flew.
Finally, the shaking subsided, and we all stood around waiting to hear the announcement to follow. Violet was screaming so loudly that I could not hear the announcement at all. I stood there as long as I could, but we were both getting, cold so I started to walk back in to my house thinking it was all OK. Just as I arrived at my house, my dear friend Junko Mino drove past and shouted out my name. I was so happy to see her, and she immediately said, “There is a big tsunami coming, please get in my car.”
I ran to the door of my house and was able to grab shoes for me and Violet and our coats. They were by the door, so I didn’t even have to go inside, but I did see everything in my kitchen on the ground. I had my cell phone and ran back to the car, and we drove away. I tried to call Gabe several times, but everyone was doing the same thing. I could not get a connection. Finally, just before the service cut out, we connected, and I said, “Where are you?” He told me his location, and I told him I was going to the hospital because it is the highest place in our town.
Junko dropped me off there and then went to meet with her family. I went inside, and they were setting up triage in the entryways. I stood there in the entry as the aftershocks continued to shake the earth. A former student of Gabe’s and her mother arrived with her 1-month-old twin baby girls. And we waited together to meet our husbands.
After an hour passed, I was really getting sick. Someone came in and said, “Where is Gabe?” and I told them. Their eyes told me everything I did not want to know. They said the wave came, and I just felt my whole world shatter. I didn’t even know the wave had come. So I stood there trying to hold it together for our baby girl. Another 45 minutes passed, and I was really hanging by a thread of hope that I would see my beloved’s face one more time. I was thinking of all the things I had said the night before and that morning. What could I have said differently?
Then a familiar face appeared. It was my neighbor, and she shouted out that Gabe was there. I didn’t believe her though. She left, and running through the doors three minutes later was my beautiful husband. It was the most beautiful embrace of my life. My husband, my friend and love, was with me again. Then we waited for news of other loved ones.
That night, we were told to stay in the gym of the hospital with other survivors. It was amazing to experience such kindness and grace under so much distress. We are safe and very blessed. The next day we moved to another evacuation area to make room for incoming elderly and injured. There was no lack of water or medicine, but we knew the night would be another rough sleep. We decided to journey to the town where our friend Mark and his aforementioned wife, Junko, live. As we were about to leave, Mark came in the room. We all embraced in tears of relief and thankfulness. Mark took us to his home, and we ate and slept well. There is so much more to tell… But we must go at this time.
We give thanks to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers. We have each other, but we have lost our home, car and possessions.
We love you all and thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers. We are continuing a vigil of hope for friends not yet contacted.
Because of shipping costs and considerations, Gabe Craft’s father, Roy Craft, is collecting monetary donations for his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Contact me if you need the address.