On Thursday, March 24, 2011, despite a brisk evening, a group of students gathered at C.W. Post’s Interfaith Center to show their support to the people of Japan.
With a bundle of sage burning slowly in the background, the candlelight vigil focused mostly on meditation, and using breathing as a tool to send warmth and love over to those affected by the disaster in Japan.
Pastor John Dornheim began the services saying, “We gather this night to light our candles and raise a prayer to whoever the god you believe in is,” acknowledging the various faith backgrounds represented in the group.
As Father Ted Brown spoke, he stressed the importance of the power of willing the warmth of our breaths over to the cold, disaster stricken area. He addressed the group solemnly, “This morning we had snow, and it was cold. We remember shortly after the earthquake and tsunami, it snowed; it was cold in Northern Japan. So let us breathe and let our warm breath send warm wishes and regard to Japan.”
The students breathed deeply as a group for a few moments taking in what Father Ted had said, and trying to will warmness to northern Japan. Students were given the opportunity to get up and speak, in whatever language might be native to them, and as a few students brave enough to share their thoughts spoke, emotions ran high.
Ayaka Katakawa, a senior arts management major, is one of the international students from Japan who studies at C.W. Post. Originally from Kawasaki, she said it takes only 10 minutes for her to travel to Tokyo from her hometown.
Following the tragedy back in Japan, Ayaka said that she was fortunate in that she was able to communicate quickly with her family and loved ones. She explained, “Since my mom called me as soon as possible, I could figure out quickly whether my family was safe or not. However, I could not get in touch with some of my friends because the signal was really bad and the phone line was really busy in Japan. I was so scared because I thought they got into trouble somehow. When I could reach them, I was so glad and relieved.”
Katakawa explained that it’s frustrating for her to be here in the United States while there is so much happening back in her home country, however she says that she is trying to make the best of the situation. “This situation makes me disappointed, frustrated, and irritated. However, now, I try to think positive. What I can do is to just study hard and enjoy staying here [with] full of smile and happiness,” added Katakawa.
Ako Ando, a senior arts management major, is another international student from Japan. Her hometown, she explains, is beach side, so there were added concerns for her about her friends and family. “My hometown is beach side. So they were afraid of the tsunami coming, and some of my friends who live near the beach evacuated temporarily just in case. However, the direct effect is power cut. On the day of disaster, electricity was down in my hometown, and now, their electricity is sometimes cut on purpose based on the plan,” Ando said.
She explained that each area has designated times where they have no power. Japanese utilities companies, like Tokyo Electric Power Company, introduced the rolling outages in order to cover electricity shortages following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. At maximum, the power shortages last for no more than 3 hours at a time.
Like Katakawa, Ando was frustrated, though she said that the compassion of the student community has helped her to be more optimistic. “I was so glad that [many] people cared about Japan…also, I really appreciate ISS and ISU giving us the opportunity to have a charity campaign,” said Ando.
Both Ando and Katakawa stressed that they will be participating in a fundraising campaign that will take place during common hour in Hillwood from April 5th-7th to raise disaster relief funds. Ando even added that, “Some of us will set the table in Hillwood and teach how to make origami cranes. Also, some of us will walk around campus with donation boxes. Some of us will wear Japanese traditional clothes [for summer]” said Yukata. “Also, I’ll perform a Japanese traditional dance on Thursday, April 7th at the Top of the Commons.” According to Japanese lore, folding 1,000 cranes allows for a wish to be granted.
Katakawa wanted to extend a message to the Post community and said, “We need your warm help. Please share your love and let’s stand together for Japan.”