ATSUGI, Japan - I awoke to annoyingly persistent doorbell rings this morning, stumbled out of bed and made my way towards the door, all while half consciously trying to put on and tie my robe. I look out my peephole and see two of my friends still in there pajamas as well. “Why haven’t you been answering your cell phone? I’ve tried calling you at least 100 times!” my friend scolded in an almost panic tone. “You have to close all your windows and seal up the vents in your house. They have detected radiation in the air here. We are also being told to stay inside until further notice.” Well I must say that was way more information I could process before my daily dose of caffeine. But I kept nodding my head along as my friends continued to explain that there was yet another explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and the wind seemed to have blown some of the emissions our way.
No one really knew just how much radiation was being detected outside when we were initially warned, so there was a mad dash, for the most part of the morning, to get important paper work finished and bags fully stocked with essential supplies. Spouses were worried about their sailor’s exposure in their work environments and parents were worried about their children who were being put on emergency lock down in their schools. Nerves were escalating pretty quickly until we finally got the word on just how much radiation was lurking outside our walls.
Finally, it was released that the need to stay indoors was recommended but not mandatory. Radiation levels were extremely low and it was said that one full hour outside would be equal to that of a normal days exposure, or the equivalent of consuming two bananas. Who knew bananas had radiation? I guess Chiquita forgot to mention that! Anyways, before these results were released into the public, Navy personnel of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Fourteen still had to maintain and ready the aircraft that were providing relief aid. This is my husband’s account on his most memorable moment since we have been stationed here.
“Today over the loudspeaker, we were constantly reminded to severely limit the amount of time we spent outside of the hangar due to potentially harmful radiation levels. But because there are still thousands of people in Japan that are in desperate need of our assistance, the flight schedule must go on. We took pieces of paper and in a sense "drew straws" because, technically, one person getting exposed to radiation was better than five. The person with the "short straw" reluctantly grabbed a tool pouch and proceeded to the door to assist in the launch of the loaded aircraft. Shortly thereafter, each of his fellow sailors joined him until we were all outside standing together on the flight line. I figured if one of our fellow brothers had to be exposed, than we all could join him, as one team in one fight. Apparently, I wasn't the only one with this thought and seeing all of my buddies potentially in harms way touched me and boosted my morale beyond comprehension. We awaited the results of the detector, and to our relief it showed the radiation levels outside were virtually non-existent.”
As the day continued on we were constantly being reassured of our safety and advised not to panic. Everyone’s nerves were on edge but we were hopeful and looking forward to the town meeting being held after our scheduled power outage. Once the power was returned members of the community trickled into the base’s movie theatre. There, people were greeted by the Commanding Officer of the base and other higher officials. Again we were reassured that so far we were still safe, and began giving answers to our most persisting questions.
When the town hall meeting was over there was a sense of calm that seemed to blanket over all our insecurities. This stressful day was over and we could all go to sleep and hope for a better tomorrow, or so we thought. No sooner had we let our guard down, a huge 6+ magnitude earthquake rocked Tokyo, 10:36pm JST. This earthquake struck very hard and only lasted for a matter of seconds. But continued to rattle our minds for hours to come, leading to one of many more nights, I am sure, of restless slumber.