I DIDN’T WANT to go back to the town that wasn’t there. It was three months after the wave receded, and the network wanted a report on conditions in the north. They sent me in the first time, just after the wave struck. I saw the bodies in the mud and the survivors on their knees in the freezing cold. Their eyes were squeezed shut, their hands clasped over white cotton facemasks. Their shoulders shook. The other reporters and I walked around in our hardhats and pointed our cameras at splintered buildings and overturned vehicles. Then we went home.
In Tokyo musicians held concerts to raise money for the survivors, and people said how awful it all was. After that, I didn’t feel qualified to go back. I could do nothing for the people there. There was no way to describe the lives of the survivors on a piece of paper or squeeze it through a lens. My boss said if I wasn’t qualified, nobody was. And he was right: nobody was. But it was my job, and I thought I might stop thinking about Yuko if I spent time with people more unfortunate than myself. I decided to dilute my misery in the collective sorrow of others who had lost far more.
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