As each new day passes and we learn of more suffering in Japan, and of the months and years of recovery ahead of us, it is this story from an unnamed American lesbian living in Tokyo that really touched me. After any disaster, whether it’s 9/11 or today’s bus bombing in Jerusalem, we hear countless stories of grief and mourning. This is one of shock and survival.
On Friday, March 11, I was at the hair salon when the earthquake struck , getting my hair highlighted in central Tokyo, so with aluminum foil in my hair and a long white gown on, my hairdresser and I , hand in hand, descended down four flights of stairs quickly to the street. I must have looked like an alien in a sci- fi movie, but none of that mattered when you feel like your life is about to end. Huge buildings were swaying and the ground beneath our feet was shaking for several long minutes. All trains had stopped running so I would be forced to walk home in the dark, not knowing how I could possibly do that, because I can’t read Japanese and didn’t have any access to any maps, which are mostly in Japanese. I also didn’t have any cell phone connection or access to a cab.
When I finally finished my hair appointment, I walked down the stairs and tried to be brave, and in that moment, to my astonishment, was my partner at the foot of the stairs. The timing of this event was unbelievable and if I didn’t meet her in that exact moment, I would have walked the streets aimlessly, hoping for the kindness of strangers and almost certain never to have met my partner in a city of 12 million people. She had walked two hours from her office, knowing I was at the hair salon and vulnerable in this situation. I looked her in the eyes, with astonishment, and said “you are my miracle” and hugged her so tightly. That night, we walked arm in arm home, for five hours, along with thousands of other people.