April 21 – Courage and Resiliency Are Ageless in Northeast Japan

Life might be returning to normal but it will never be like it was before 3/11.

Over the past few days, Yasue’s experiences in Sendai have out of necessity narrowed to just her daily roundtrip to the hospital. Her focus on caring for her mother has left little time for anything else. In some ways, this is actually good news because means life in Sendai – at least in our little corner of this disaster – is returning to normal. Despite Twitter’s best attempts to make normal life newsworthy and interesting, it isn’t. There just has not been anything new for Yasue to report.

Of course, in the harder hit coastal towns, life is still anything but normal and it will take some time before it is. However, even in the hardest hit towns, residents stoically march toward normalcy. Just today, an elementary school in the devastated town of Ishinomaki started the new school year like schools all over Japan. Unlike most schools though, Okawa Elementary School’s first day was heralded nationwide. The tiny school lost 74 of its 108 students and 10 of its 13 teachers to the tsunami. All 84 have either been confirmed dead or are still missing. On this day, 22 Okawa students and their new teachers met in a nearby school to begin not just a new school year, but to begin rebuilding young lives. I wonder if these young students know how much they are teaching us by returning to school only six weeks after having lost their families, their classmates, their teachers, their town.

There are countless signs of resiliency and courage throughout Tohoku from young an old alike. An elderly resident of a Miyagi Prefecture evacuation center makes it very clear that the elderly too are ready to begin rebuilding their lives in her letter here.