I was watching late night TV on Thursday when the EAS warnings started coming in. It was not a test. A tsunami was coming and it even had an arrival time.
I live quite a few miles in from the California coast, but my nephew and his pregnant wife rent a little Santa Cruz bungalow. In retrospect, I should have sent them a text message or something, but they're okay now. As a precaution, they were evacuated in the early morning hours.
Which of course is nothing compared to the awful hell the Japanese are going through. First, a 9.0 megathrust quake hit, violently shaking quake-prepared skyscrapers, altering the earth's spin, and generating a tsunami that swept away Japanese cities.
And like a long distance kiss across the ocean, the tsunami visited California. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, nobody can deny that we are all connected. What the earth does, and what we do to it, and how it responds to our behavior connects us all, at least in a purely terrestrial sense.
But in a whole different sense, I've found it extremely difficult to watch their suffering because I know it could have been us -- me, my family, friends, everybody I know. It's a long-standing joke that when parts of the Golden State fall into the ocean, those of us further inland will have beach front property. Not so funny now -- now that half the town of Minamisanriku is missing.
And yet Japan was more prepared than probably any other country in the world. They made a $1 billion investment in a high-tech earthquake warning system that gave people a few seconds warning. Every second counts if it means time to get under a table or stop heavy machinery. I want this system in California, but our Congress critters are so bloody idiotic and short-sighted that they want to cut funding for the tsunami warning systems that worked so well!
But even the Japanese government, who seem to take every conceivable step to protect their citizens, couldn't make disaster-proof nuclear power plants. As I'm writing this, I'm reading about the second reactor explosion at Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant. This whole thing must feel like the end of the world to them.
There's not much we can do right now, but donate.