Paku kyunheui, 13, year 2 junior high student, Amagaki-shi Minamitsukaguchi-cho (North Korea)
5.47 a.m., January 17, 1995. It was still very early in the morning when I heard loud noises coming from below and felt hit by a tremendous impact. All it took was about 20 seconds for many people to lose their houses, properties, and their love ones.
I was one. Luckily, my house still stood after the quake. My father was covered under collapsed chests and suffered a serious injury on his legs when he tried to help me, who was trembling and crying on the bed. My mother went pale and blacked out. My sister came to her aid while my father somehow managed to get up by himself and took me by my hand.
Four of us got out of the house unhurt.
I trembled involuntarily with uncontrollable fear and my tears kept streaming down. ‘Hey, cool down,” one of the guys from the neighborhood put a jacket over me and comforted me.
I did not sleep a wink. At eight a.m., the sun finally emerged. We went back to our house and were shocked at what we saw. Every single object toppled. The sight of my favorite chima jeogori going under the piano sent me biting my lips and clenching my fists in sadness.
I was speechless.
I loved this jeogori and took great care when putting it on, but now...
Realizing how sad I had become, Mom urged Dad to remove the piano. When I held my jeogori in my hands again, I was very, very happy.
It was reported in the news that Nagata and Kobe were hit. Kobe, where my friends and I had visited the day before, lost its liveliness. Everywhere were collapsed houses and shops, and a sea of fire.
People wailed and cried. Some were overwhelmed emotionally. Others banged themselves against objects to vent their frustrations. These people were robbed of their living place. I could not but burst out crying.
Seeing that many people were in grief, I began to wonder what I could do to help. I decided to send groceries to my relatives in Kobe.
Three days later, I was on my way.
My cousin and I cycled with all our might towards our destinations. After passing Nishinomiya and thinking we were almost there, my bicycle chain came off. This bicycle had never had this problem before. What a time to break down! When we finally reached our relative’s place, tears flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks.
My relatives looked as if they had not had anything to eat in the past three days. They held my hands and kept thanking me.
At that point, I thought if everyone could help, this city would certainly be restored to its previous state.
In fact, they were already helping one another, and cross-border cooperation actually took place. We, the Japanese and North Koreans, helped one another. Total strangers though we were before the quake, some became good friends after some conversations.
Although we started from zero again, with mutual help, zero would become one, and one would grow into something big.
There are still aftershocks today, but we are going to fight on.
We can now go to school, and there are water and gas supplies. We are back to our ordinary blissful lives. We definitely want to work harder towards a full restoration.
I believe in a future where every body can realize his dreams.