Remember, We Humans were Raised in the Greatness – Reflections on Fukushima
One year and one day ago, the world watched in horror as a gigantic wave seemed to sweep Japan away. Can’t you still see that frothing, muddy water swallowing coastal villages, sucking up trainloads of people and leaving behind the most horrifying wasteland. In a moment, where people had once lived for generations, there was nothing but debris and radiation from the damaged power plants.
A few months after the devastation, when the daily news reports had abated and the world started to turn back to local issues, the Japanese people were still knee deep in destruction and the constant worry of the effects of radiation. All they knew and trusted was turned upside down.
In my funny little work world, I have the opportunity to participate in some interesting projects. In the case of Japan, I was fortunate to be helping a company that had developed a gel that happens to have a most unique ability to suck up nuclear radiation.
We were able to help them connect with the Japanese Medical Association who accepted a gift of the blue goo and then we worked with the prefecture of Fukushima to show them how to use it by decontaminating a Baptist Church Kindergarten in Fukushima City. See: blue goo in School Video
What I did not expect was to become so engaged with a tiny little school on such a personal level. What started out as a “biz dev.” project turned into an effort of the heart.
We were not just decontaminating a building, we were making it possible for children to play outside on their playground – children who had been cooped up indoors for several months could run, jump and just be kids again. Simple pleasures in life that most of us take for granted.
When the ribbon was cut, I found myself along with the other adults having to encourage the kids to explore as if they had almost lost their memory on what a slide was or a jungle gym.
Only when they finally realized they were free of worry and free of restraint, did the squeals of joy start coming from the traditionally restrained children and the noise level start to sound like any playground in the world. A few skinned knees and dirty hands later, the day appeared to be a success.
Parents wondered how they could trust the government, the information and whether an invisible thing like radiation could be removed. How could they know they could be safe? As part of our team, we brought a scientist named Cham Dallas to Fukushima. His specialty is the human side of nuclear radiation exposure.
We asked him to take the lead on making sure the decontamination effort at the school could be verified, validated – measured. We were successful in cleaning nearly 100% of the radiation from the schoolyard. The commonly used method of power washing usually merits about 30% and usually because the radiation has just been spread around.
What a journey. The lovely family that runs the Little Lambs School at the Asahimachi Baptist Church could not have been more dedicated, invested, and grateful for the focus on their little school.
The long road to a clean Japan can almost not be fathomed, but there are things that can be done. I KNOW that with a little blue gel, the lives of so many kids can be normalized in Japan. On this anniversary week, my heart goes out to Fukushima and my littlest of friends who are still playing on their clean playground.
Hopefully we will be able to let many, many more kids be kids — one school at a time.
As I started writing this, my “lucky” number popped to my attention on my computer screen. Simultaneously my phone lit up with a text from my sister which revealed the time on my iphone – my lucky number again: 11:11.
For me, there is nothing coincidental about this. It has been happening for years. In times when hope is most needed, when I need a lift, when I need to know there is something greater than myself, this number appears before me.
It may mean nothing to you, but in this circumstance, to me it means, that while there will always be an uncertain landscape, the Japanese people are resilient even if they have to adjust to mother nature they will remember the past, but look to the future with confidence.
(There are many sources on the Internet about the number 1 and the number 11 that make it even more interesting to me and maybe worth its own essay someday!)