Puget Sound residents with connections to Japan are still shaken up, struggling to connect with friends and family and banding together to support each other in the wake of a devastating magnitude 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami. For many, getting a phone connection is impossible, and social networking sites are the only means of communication.
For hours on Thursday night and Friday morning, Ernesto Pino redialed his partner’s Tokyo hotel hoping for a connection.
“I kept getting either busy signals or the Japanese equivalent of ‘all circuits are busy,’ ” Pino said.
After what seemed to him like a lifetime, the call went through.
“The woman in the lobby was as shocked as I was. She was like, ‘Oh my god, the phone rang!’ ” Pino said.
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Pino finally reached his partner, Richard Gray, a Seattle-based actor who was in Tokyo to perform in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He was safe.
Puget Sound-area residents with connections to Japan are still fraught with worry, struggling to connect with friends and family and banding together to support each other in the wake of a devastating magnitude 8.9 earthquake and massive tsunami. For many, getting a phone connection is impossible, and social networking sites are the only means of communication.
Kan Kimura, a visiting University of Washington professor from Kobe University in Japan, said he communicates with earthquake-afflicted colleagues and relatives via Twitter, where he’s seen people call for help or assure friends of their safety.
“Facebook has been huge, because people can update their status from their mobile phones,” Seattle Pacific University student and Tokyo native Jenni Husby said. “I’ve been glued to it all night checking in with my friends and family.”
Husby had been able to reach almost all of her loved ones by Friday evening to confirm that they were safe. Some were run out of their homes by the earthquake and sleeping in cars or hotels; others in Sendai, a city hit hard by the tsunami, proved particularly difficult to reach.
SPU’s international student community drew close together Thursday night and Friday to support each other, Husby said.
“We’ve been on the phone all day with each other, calling each other to find out if our families are OK,” she said. “It’s encouraging that everyone in the community here has been pouring out a lot of support and encouragement.”
The University of Washington’s Office of Global Affairs said Friday that almost half of its 25 students studying in Japan were accounted for and safe. Seattle University reached all 11 of its students currently in Japan.
All over the Puget Sound, support and relief efforts are still in the works.
On Friday, St. James Cathedral and Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Seattle organized gatherings to recognize and pray for disaster victims, but no temples or churches had yet announced weekend prayers or services for quake and tsunami victims. At Faith Bible Church in Seattle’s International District, senior pastor Craig Swanson and his wife, Lois, have e-mailed the congregation asking for their prayers but haven’t organized an event yet.
“At this point, a lot of us are still just trying to get in touch,” Lois Swanson said.
A few Japanese community groups, including the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington and the Japanese American Citizens League’s Northwest district, met Friday night to discuss relief efforts.
Leela Bilow, the events, programs and volunteer coordinator at the cultural and community center, said the groups bought a domain name and would soon launch an informative website for local residents who want to donate money or possessions to earthquake and tsunami relief.
In the meantime, those who want to donate to the relief effort can visit the city of Seattle’s disaster-relief website.
Seattle Times reporters Janet Tu and Joanna Nolasco contributed to this report.
Jill Kimball: 206-464-2108 or firstname.lastname@example.org