The significance of keeping records

Yamanaka Toshio, 67, former Kobe councilor, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ku

It happened all of a sudden in the cold darkness. In the memories of the victims, there is a huge chunk of blankness in time. When? Where? With who? Under what conditions? Honestly, I cannot remember or record what has transpired correctly.

But, my memories about that emergency, what actions I had taken, what the conditions were, what could have been done, what I had considered, and what I had thought about, have not left me completely.

We must do something to prevent this tragedy from repeating itself!

Things that only the victims know must be told and recorded in all honesty. These narrations must live on as valuable warnings and advice to protect those without such an experience and the lives and properties of the future generations.

On the first day after the catastrophe, people took the initiative to check for the safety of their families, neighbors and friends, and rescue victims who had been buried alive. They formed bucket brigades to fight the ferocious blaze. Two shivering victims shared a towel, and three or four starving victims shared a rice ball. Those were the touching images of noble and beautiful moments.

Vehicles passing through cracked and markedly uneven roads gave way to one another, and it was almost accident free that day.

The public administration employees, who were victims too, exerted themselves in that time of need without being told to. The teachers took up the double duties of running the evacuation halls and educating the occupants. Though frustrated with the situation, the employees of the fire department, fire-fighters, police, self-defense force, the employees of the administrative departments of other prefecture, and volunteers, went on to accomplished their missions. My sincere gratitude goes to all the domestic and overseas helpers. I was lucky to witness the joy of those who had been saved, and the beauty of those who had rid themselves of the desire for material comfort. Overseas applause was reported on the news.

However, on the second and third days, some disputes occurred over the distribution of food, blankets and stove burners. Some stole cash, bank books and seals from under the pillows. Others broke into or set fire to unmanned houses. Night guards were sent out to every district. People were angry at the administrative departments, which could not function efficiently due to the communication breakdowns and traffic jams, and manpower shortage. They shouted angrily at the district office cadres and the headmasters, did and said things that hampered the relief effort. Some complained about the dirty toilets but never took it upon themselves to draw water and clean them up. Although very few people behaved like that, once the human desire for material made a comeback, everything went back to its original state.

Today (October 27th), the newspaper reported that the number of accidents in the city has soared. People must have forgotten about the courtesy of giving way to others. The conflict of interest in urban planning cannot be easily resolved.

Even with these reports, I still feel that the situation has become much better amidst community building, home building, profound soul-searching and follow-up study. However, I am worried that our beautiful hearts, cleansed by the major sacrifices and misfortunate of the catastrophe, are beginning to return to their pre-quake state.

When we keep record of what has happened, it is important that we do not hide the negative human behaviors we saw during this catastrophe.

This kind of record will serve as a mirror for stringent self-reflection for those who wish to live in a beautiful world and be strong.

I hope everyone will come together and contribute to a strong, gentle and beautiful Kobe.

The table on the left shows the number of participants of the eEgeyama Radio Exercise Groupf of the Hyogo-ku, which celebrated its 37th anniversary last summer.

This exercise group resumed its activities promptly on January 23rd (Sunday) with three members only. Then, with every passing day, increasingly more people, who had come out of their depression, joined them. Now, it has more than 200 members. Last February, it was further boosted with large sums of donations received from Fukuyama-shi of the Hiroshima Prefecture and Ibara-shi of the Okayama Prefecture.

On February 29th, construction of temporary housings began on their original place of activity, and the group moved to the current venue. On March 19th, the duty roaster for the exercise stage was resumed.

Then, as residents began moving into the temporary housings, the group wanted to create some point of contact between the participants and the residents. With the donations from Fukuyama-shi and Ibara-shi and the help from the Volunteer Center of the Hyogoku Social Welfare Conference, eContact Breakfastf was held on May 22nd (Monday). All the participants had steamed rice out of one single pot. They consoled, comforted and encouraged each other.