Pulling together for Japan

Northeastern University freshman Runa Maeda panicked when she could not reach her parents, in Yokohama, Japan, for more than a day after the country suffered its strongest earthquake on record and a tsunami that flooded hundreds of square miles of coastline.

“At first it didn’t seem real,” Maeda, an architecture major, said of the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the northeast coast of Japan on March 11. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Madea was one of about 100 members of the Northeastern community who participated in a solemn celebration of the strength and spirit of the people of Japan on Friday afternoon. The event, held in the Sacred Space, included a declaration by President Joseph Aoun that Northeastern is prepared to support all of those touched by the tragedy; and featured the Honorable Takeshi Hikihara, consul general of Japan.

Hikihara called the earthquake an unnerving event. “It was beyond all imagination even for Japan, which has so much experience in the past with natural disasters,” he said. “We need your moral support. We need your compassion.”

Countless members of the Northeastern community have been touched by the catastrophe, which killed thousands of people and caused billions of dollars in damage, including critical damage to nuclear power plants that is threatening the country with further disaster.

Freshman electrical engineering major Waleed Alkatheeri found out about the earthquake through a Facebook message posted by one of his friends living in Japan.

The message said, “I wish from the bottom of my heart that all my friends in Nihon are fine.”

Alkatheeri, who was born in the United Arab Emirates, said that people from all walks of life living in all parts of the world must turn tragedy into solidarity.

“I’m worried about the people in Japan,” he said. “We’re all human.”

Sustainability manager Carol Rosskam has a friend who lost a family member in the disaster. Rosskam and her friend, who met in graduate school at the University of Oregon, had not spoken in three years prior to last week.

“I had a feeling before I called her,” said Rosskam. “I didn’t really want to hear what she had to say.”

Chemical engineering postdoctoral research associate Keiichiro Kushiro has several family members in Tokyo. He said the supermarkets are empty, electricity is scare, and the public transportation system has come to a near stop.

Japan, he said, has the character of a country that will overcome this tragedy. “Japan is a very civilized nation,” said Kushiro, who called the country his “role-model.”

“I respect how they’re responding to the situation,” he added.

Members of the Northeastern community are chipping in to help Japan recover from last week’s quake.

Students in the Japanese Cultural Club, for example, plan to sell greeting cards on their website created by a student in the Art + Design program. Proceeds will go toward the relief effort.

Those interested in supporting national relief efforts can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross or JAPAN to 50555 to donate $10 to Global Giving, a nonprofit group.