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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [790] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

I find the child walking alone through the rubble. Her dress of red flowers ragged and torn above her bare feet as she steps clumsily around a broken window frame. As I approach her she looks at me numbly. Her right hand clutches a stuffed bear, sodden with sea water and missing an eye, it is likely all that remains from her home since the earthquake.

I take her free hand and lift her above the jagged terrain, searching for the most direct route to safety. Listening at the same time for the sound of a rescue helicopter or a surge of water over an ever-present caw of sea birds circling above as they search the ruins for fish stranded by the receding waves.

A wave of fatigue washes over me and I lose my footing, the warm feeling of a skinned elbow is almost comforting as I forget about the girl and forget about standing up. A shout in the distance barely noticed as Katsuko cautiously rushes over to check on the girl and lift me roughly back to my feet. The wiry old fisherman has worked tirelessly searching for survivors and has been a beacon of strength for those that remain in the town.

Though the aftershocks have subsided, the crash of fallen masonry in the distance is a constant reminder of the continued danger to our small band of villagers, confined to the upper floor of a hotel by pools of seawater and unstable footing. Relief workers have been spread thin and it has fallen to the grief-stricken survivors to persevere and offer aid in the fishing villages north of Sendai.

The resilience of these locals throughout this disaster has me utterly awestruck as their continued perseverance and foresight have seen the formation of food stores, medical equipment and other supplies that will be necessary should rescue take longer than anticipated. Where most communities would be overcome with grief, these people have banded together and created a functional aid station in the ruins of a hotel. To this day the words of our hobbyist radio operator inspire and humble me; when asked how far away the rescue teams were he explained that he had asked them not to come; we had enough to survive, others did not and therefore we were not a priority.

I look around at the faces of my family of the last, long days. Though I could not speak a word to many of them, the bond we share is something that could not be expressed in any other way than a simple, solemn nod as they file into the vans to begin their lives anew. As I watch from the doorway, the girl in the dress of red flowers leaves Katsuko’s side to say goodbye. Before turning back she presses something into my hand and as I see her for the last time, being lifted into the van by the old fisherman, I squeeze the stuffed bear with one eye.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011



Wow. A lot of the entries in this contest I've read have been about the misadventures of backpackers missing trains or discovering temples somewhere. Yours is the first I've read which addresses a real tragedy, and you present it in way that manages to be both heartbreaking and uplifting. Very well done.

  aro-tron Mar 28, 2011 9:36 PM


You truly touch a cord of emotion inside us all, made all the worse for the fact this tragedy is so recent. however the vivid pictures i see as i read your story cut to the core and i wish i too was able to reach out a helping hand. it is hard to ignore the fragility of humanity yet the amazing spirit we show at times like this. thank you for your insight, god bless.

  sands Apr 7, 2011 6:11 AM

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