It’s difficult to explain what this day is like.
My mind was ticking over as I drove to work this morning. I wondered at all the cyclists biking to work, the people out for a morning run or to walk the dog before their days really started. The suburbs were alive with organised and proactive people.
This is only the second time I’ve driven from my new house to work, having only moved out of the Red Zone and into stability in the weekend. My new side of the city is so vibrant and so alive. There are shops everywhere, open and operational, and traffic and pedestrians and children and so much activity that it’s an effort in concentration to drive safely.
And I think, it’s strange. To be celebrating or remembering, or both, the one year mark after The Big One. I didn’t think I would be affected by the day, and in fact I didn’t feel any different this morning. Because there’s no delineator post between what happened, and what’s happening today. It still feels very much like we’re an earthquake city. It wasn’t The Big Day way back when, and now it’s One Year On. It’s all just one long period of time. It’s hard to differentiate. It’s too soon, because it’s still happening.
I write all the time about the broken buildings, the liquefaction dust whipped up in the windy days, the favourite restaurants that no longer exist, the cordoned off central business district that may as well not exist for all it’s worth at the moment.
But today I’ve been reading stories of survival and stories of loss. I’ve been looking at the familiar photos from last year. I’ve been remembering the absolute horror I felt when I fled outside, stumbling on the ground like I was trying to run across a trampoline. The bricks that flew off buildings beside us, opposite us. Being the first one in the carpark, the sounds, the children at the bus stop crying, sobbing, when they should have been fulfilling their roles as indifferent teenagers. The blinding dust. The cars rolling, the trees moving like trees shouldn’t move. The visceral fear.
My guilt at fleeing the city. Not sticking around, not checking on anyone else, not noticing that a building had collapsed behind our office block killing 115 people. Guilt at feeling distress when the ways in which I was affected were so tame in comparison. Guilt at feeling so devastated by a broken city that still functions, while Japan’s scale was of a magnitude I can’t comprehend.
And there’s the gnawing thought that’s always present these days; it could happen again. In September, we thought that was The Big One. It was certainly big. The likelihood of another large one decreases marginally each day we go unrattled, but it never completely disappears. Today, the thought is ever present. It could happen again. I save this document religiously in case the shaking starts and the power goes out again. I was in the middle of writing last time. It was an unsuspecting day that turned into history. This is another such day. Tomorrow will be another. It could be any of these days, or it could not be. But every time a bus rumbles past, or someone walks heavily in the upstairs office, or the wind buffets my truck while I’m sitting at traffic lights, I’m right back there. Is this it?
I’m not going to any of the memorials. I don’t feel that I need to. But I might watch live coverage.
I might observe the two minutes silence. I might not. It depends on my work load. Because it doesn’t do anything. Not here at work, where I’m surrounded by empty lots, road cones and security fences and braces on buildings. I remember every day.
I’ll go to Mass tonight, but not because of the earthquakes. I’ll go because it’s Ash Wednesday. I’ll probably cry, like I teared up this morning, like I’m tearing up now. Out of exhaustion more than anything.