Opinion

Japan tsunami destroys Federal Way woman's childhood home | Andy Hobbs

When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s northeast coast, Federal Way resident Yoko Inaba played the longest waiting game of her life.

Inaba tried desperately to contact her family in Japan. About seven hours after the disaster, she received a brief text message from her sister, who said everyone was safe. Two days later, she finally spoke with her father in a short phone call filled with tears and relief.

Inaba’s childhood home on the coast in Miyako City is gone, and her parents are staying with relatives who live inland. Some of her relatives died in the March 11 disaster.

Her husband, Ian Burkheimer, went to Japan immediately after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake to check on family members and help victims as part of the International Medical Assistance Team (IMAT). The mission was cut short because of radiation dangers from damaged nuclear power plants.

Inaba planned to visit Japan in June for her sister’s wedding, which has since been postponed. Miyako City is far from nuclear plants and should be safe, she said.

“I will still go there,” said Inaba, who moved to Washington almost eight years ago. “I want to see my parents.”

This month, Inaba will participate in a fundraiser to support victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Himawari Japanese Language School is hosting a bazaar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16 at Saltwater Unitarian Universalist Church in Des Moines. The event will feature a bake sale, crafts and activities.

Inaba, whose children attend the preschool, will make and sell postcards depicting her hometown before the earthquake and tsunami.

Kazuyo Hall, who owns and operates the preschool, said the disaster directly affected several parents whose children attend her school.

“The Japanese who live in this community feel very powerless,” Hall said. “We want to be there, but we can’t.”

That same powerlessness illustrates the true power of family. When a family is in crisis, the family’s world stops until the crisis is resolved. When a loved one’s well-being suddenly becomes a concern, especially like the situation Yoko Inaba is experiencing, the uncertainty will bring the strongest people to their knees. Euphoric relief will soak Inaba this summer when she finally sees her parents again. Their house may be gone, but together, they always make a home. That’s the power of family.

Family — be it spouses, parents or children — can make the most fractured souls feel whole. Parents taste the power of family when they walk in the door and their children sprint toward them with unbridled enthusiasm.

Parents taste the power of family when their children are hurt, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Even as an adult, a hug from mom comforts the same way it did during childhood, just like catching a whiff of mom’s natural scent or grandma’s perfume. Every adult is another adult’s child, and every child has the power to bring out the best in every adult. That’s the power of family.

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