Far Away from Disaster

My school is now on spring break, and I won’t see my students for a week. Some of my students are from Japan.

a well-loved student

What words do you use for tragedy? Shouldn’t a writer know? And what do you say to someone who is so very far away from home and family?

Why should anyone though imagine they have the magic words to make anyone feel better?

My students are from all over the world–from countries with uprisings, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and their own personal tragedies.

Writing seems to make sense of things from a distance, but not necessarily things sitting next to you.

Not for me anyway.

One student from Japan is young, skinny, and always has a very cool camera. His hair never looks brushed and his clothes sag and look like after thoughts. He waits an extra minute to leave, often causing you to say, “Um, did you have another question?”


He makes funny comments in class and odd grammar mistakes.

I hope his family is okay.

Another Japanese student is an older man, close to retirement, here for a year while his wife is back home. He has no fear of going anywhere alone. Recently he went on his own to a dude ranch, and supposedly he is going to Cancun for spring break. In class he moves a hand in the rhythm of whatever I am explaining and when I’m done he nods sharply and says, “Yes.”

I hope his family okay.

Another student from Japan (though not my student now) was demur and sweet, and yet would write stories of being drunk and passing out on stairs. “Like a dream!” she wrote. In her story, friends carried her to the roof and she woke up under stars and blood in her hair. “It was very fun!”

with one of my classes a couple years ago

P.S. One Halloween a student from Japan dressed up as Darth Vader. Coincidentally another teacher dress as Obi Wan Kenobi. In the middle of my writing class, the doors flung open and Obi Wan dashed into the room, Darth on his heels. They stopped, spun, clashed light sabers, ran on and out the doors on the opposite side of the room. Our Darth went on to marry a Korean girl and take her back with him to Japan. I don’t know where they are now.

All hopes to Japan.


NHK World News channel isn’t loud, it doesn’t fill the screen with nonsense, it doesn’t have everything you expect from FOX or CNN.

5 thoughts on “Far Away from Disaster

  1. Things of this magnitude leave no words. We aren’t meant to have them, I think. I’ll add your students to the list of people I’m praying for today, from Japan and elsewhere.

    1. Water has long fascinated me–hence the title of my blog…–and yet water is terrifying too. Seeing the video of that water pitching itself like it had gone mad, well, that will stay in my mind like the plumes of the Challenger explosion and the rubble of the World Trade Center collapse. Heartbreaking.

  2. It’s been a devastating time in Japan. I hate the feeling of helplessness – I can’t DO anything! So I pray. That those who are able to help, will. That those who are lost and grieving find comfort. That this event will bring out the best in people.

    I hope your students and their families are okay too.

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