March 12th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #782 'As Japan digs out'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Japan has been hit by a massive earthquake, and the White House is responding.

Dear Mr. President,

The news from Japan is terrible. Earthquakes are fearsome things even in their milder forms, and a monster such as this one is truly awe-inspiring and awful. I was watching one particular bit of video as a wave of debris swept through a neighborhood and I could clearly see how nice and tidy everything was one second, and how utterly devastated the next.

When I have visited huge natural disasters over the years, I have often wondered how people make it through. You can send all the blankets, water, food and medical supplies you want (and of course, all of that is good) but only time and many years of rebuilding will replace the lost sense of security.

I often think, aside from the lives, that is the biggest casualty in such moments. As painful and difficult as it is, homes can be rebuilt, possessions replaced, roads repaved, businesses reopened. But that basic sense of feeling safe in your own town, on your own street, in your own house, is a difficult sensation to recover.

Once after a massive earthquake in Central America I was standing in the middle of a decimated street surrounded by people digging for survivors. An aftershock made the ground jump hard, and everyone froze, looking around in fear. It passed and we all grimly smiled and went back to work.

There was really nothing left on that street to be destroyed. All the buildings were already down. And yet the unspoken sentence from everyone was, "Oh no, not again. Can't the earth just quit shaking so we can get on with rebuilding? So we can feel safe again?"

And in that spirit, I sometimes think that the real value of foreign aid at such times - aside from the obvious, practical use - is that it tells people in stricken countries that others are aware of their plight. That they are not alone and help is on the way. Such messages, shouted through piles of rubble or tapped out in the debris, have kept survivors alive and fighting in many quakes long after they wanted to give up. And hopefully the international response now will help all the people of Japan feel the same way as they begin their long struggle to dig out and rebuild.


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Aleksandra Nath

    I am watching what's happenieng in Japan and I am devastated. I just wonder if there is any way to eliminate comercials out of reports related to Japan just from respect for human tragedy. PLEASE! And if you can get other stations to do it,it would be great. Don't you think at least news should be free of commercials anyway?
    Aleksandra Nath

    March 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  2. Travis Mask

    Anderson, thanks for always being there to tell us the news as it breaks. Please be careful in Japan. I work for Delta Airlines and will be doing a trip over to Tokyo on Sat 19th.

    March 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  3. David Dunnington

    I'm glad the US has arrived in Japan to assist with relief. But,it's beyond sad and disgusting to think that US relief arrived within ~24 hours and when Katrina hit it took ....how long, 3 days ??? Why ? Wonder what the people of Louisiana think.

    March 13, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  4. roy munson

    i was watching the coverage on the possible nuclear meltdown in japan, when i realized no one was asking the question, if ther is a metdown what does that do to the other reactors in the area? can workers still get in to the area to maintain the other reactors in the area or are we looking at a possible meltdown of the other reactors? and do we learn a lesson that nuclear facilities shouldn't be built so close to each other in case of this type or other types of accidents.

    March 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  5. Jack Brodbeck (SmilinJack)

    Hope all those reporting from Japan are at least equipped with a Radalert device. Has anyone reporting near Fukushima checked a geiger counter for radiation surges? TEPCO is not trustworthy as a source.

    March 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  6. Trevor Bowles

    I have a grave concern of radiation fall out from Japan’s nuclear plants expelling exhaust of toxic radiation into the atmosphere thus into the weather system then dropping it on us here in North America.
    I have studied this topic and know the risk it can present and how governments down play the real risk.
    I believe the public should be informed with the information so that they have the choice to stay indoors when the systems come through.
    Can you tell us the time frame in which it takes the weather system to travel from Japan?
    Can you have experts look into the real danger?
    Thank you

    March 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  7. Sherri

    What type of effect will the shifting of Earth's axis 4 inches include if any?

    March 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  8. chad gonnella

    Can someone find out what happens when the radiation cloud from Japan nuke plant enters jet stream and reaches United States? Thanks Chad

    March 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Jim Curtis


    Have your people check the cars going over the waterfall under the bridge>>>> If you look closely, you can see someone struggling in the car as it tumbles down the sloping waterfall. It looks like there arm is pushing up against the inside of the glass. I noticed this on my HD set while watching your show last night. Its less clear on the pc screen. What do you think? Jim Curtis Richmond VA

    March 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  10. Patricia S.

    Dear Mr. President, Today I say a prayer for the Japanese people and their country. May God be with you all in this horrible disaster that has struck your country. You are strong people and a strong country and should come together now as one to rebuild your lives. I pray that God be with you every step of the way. I am so sorry for you loss, and pray that God protects all of you from furthur distruction and harm. Your country and people are in my prayers every minute. God bless you.
    Patty in Virgina USA

    March 12, 2011 at 11:20 am |