Category Archives: History

July 31st, 1987 – A Horrific Day

July 30th, 1987.  A night I remember well.  I was ten years old and living in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was visiting relatives at that time in my hometown of Beaverlodge, Alberta.  I remember my parents were still in Stony Plain, near Edmonton, while I was up on my own.  I don’t exactly recall how I got there.  But that’s not important.  What’s important is what happened over the next 24 hours.

That night, we were in Grande Prairie watching a couple of movies, Dragnet and Superman IV to be exact.  Dragnet was entertaining with comedy giants of the ’80s Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.  Superman IV was a disaster.  Maybe it foreshadowed what was about to happen.

On our way back to my aunt, uncle, and cousin’s home, we were treated to an intense thunderstorm so incredible that it was almost like daylight.  There was so much lightning, you could probably read a book.  I love thunderstorms, and even when I was ten, I enjoyed watching the lightning show.  Far better than Superman IV.

The next day, everything was going normally until we saw the news.  It was very troubling, and I was scared.  You see, July 31st, 1987 was the day that the tornado hit Edmonton.  27 dead.  It mostly hit the industrial area in the eastern part of the city, as well as some countryside, but it was devastating.  It was an F4 tornado, which is pretty powerful.  I’ll let this video show you how bad it was.  It’s a bit old, but you’ll see just what it was like. [Edit: Video no long appears to exist, which is a shame.]

What’s frightening is that it came pretty close to another relative’s house, and its path is very close to where my sister and mom live now.  When it was on the news, I called my parents.  They told me they were fine.  It was on the east side of the city, while our home was west of the city.  However, the weather was pretty intense there, too.  As you can imagine, a lot was going through my ten-year-old mind.  I was glad my family was safe.

Since then, I have seen some crazy-looking storms around the Edmonton area, as well as in Victoria, BC.  But I’ve also been through many typhoons here in Japan.  But nothing could match how I felt about that tornado.  We can ride out a typhoon, but a tornado destroys whatever is in its path.

Exactly 18 years after the tornado, I climbed Mt. Fuji.  A tornado can sometimes be shaped like an inverted volcano.  Strange.

Have you ever flirted with disaster?

Book Review – 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

Author: Various

Genre: Nonfiction History, Essays

Published 2011

Review copy: Free eBook from Amazon

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Description

In just over a week, a group of unpaid professional and citizen journalists who met on Twitter created a book to raise money for Japanese Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. In addition to essays, artwork and photographs submitted by people around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it, 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake contains a piece by Yoko Ono, and work created specifically for the book by authors William Gibson, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein.

“The primary goal,” says the book’s editor, a British resident of Japan, “is to record the moment, and in doing so raise money for the Japanese Red Cross Society to help the thousands of homeless, hungry and cold survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. The biggest frustration for many of us was being unable to help these victims. I don’t have any medical skills, and I’m not a helicopter pilot, but I can edit. A few tweets pulled together nearly everything – all the participants, all the expertise – and in just over a week we had created a book including stories from an 80-year-old grandfather in Sendai, a couple in Canada waiting to hear if their relatives were okay, and a Japanese family who left their home, telling their young son they might never be able to return.”

If you’d like to make a donation to aid the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, please visit the Japanese Red Cross Society website, where you can donate via Paypal or bank transfer (watch out for the fees, though!) or the American Red Cross Society, which accepts donations directed to its Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund (but only accepts donations made with U.S.-issued credit cards).

And of course, if you like the book, please tell your friends, and tell them to give generously as well! Thank you! Japan really does appreciate your help!

Review

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake is kind of special to me.  On March 11, 2011, I went through what many of the people who contributed to this book went through.  I live in Japan, and on that day, so many things changed when the magnitude 9.0 megathrust earthquake hit the Tohoku region of Japan, off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture.  The devastating tsunami came along afterwards, and then a nuclear meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima made things even worse.  What I read in this book is very similar to my own experiences, and it brought back many memories.

The editor of 2:46, Our Man In Abiko, put together a collection of personal accounts by many social media users and bloggers, as well as some famous people, in just over a week.  That is quite the feat.  This book was created to raise money for charity to help relieve the situation in the disaster-stricken Tohoku region.  Some contributors include William Gibson, Yoko Ono, Baye McNeil, Jake Adelstein, and many others.  I had an opportunity to participate, but didn’t really think about it at that moment.

So, how is the book?  Don’t expect it to be well written by every contributor.  These are average people who are amateur writers at best, though there are a few professionals who write extremely well.  The experiences are wide and varied, from people living near the disaster area to those who are living overseas.  But they all have a connection to Japan, most having lived there.  Some contributions conveyed emotions quite well.  I found that I could relate to most of the pieces, and could clearly picture what was going on.  I could feel the motion of the earthquake as I read it.  I could see how people reacted in my mind.  I lived it all over again several times through this book.

Don’t expect amazing narrative or prose when reading this, but please read it to see what it was like to experience a 9.0 magnitude megathrust earthquake and the resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster. Highly recommended!

4 out of 5 stars.