I was in Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast and was awakened at 3:30 AM and advised to get to higher ground, which I did. Back in the room after getting tired of waiting in the car listening to radio reports, I alternately watched the TV images of the giant wave sweeping Fukushima away and the real Pacific Ocean before me eerily ebbing and silently surging to the shore’s vegetation line.
Three years later I’m sad that the people of Fukushima still suffer. I worry about the radiation escaping from the damaged nuclear power plant. And I wonder what effects the radiation will have on the North Pacific’s ecosystem and our Northwest coast.
Anniversaries or memorials as in this case provide an opportunity to assess the progress of recovery, the changes made from lessons learned, and the continued inability to do things any differently than the ways in which they were done before.
Natural disasters like Fukushima, Sandy, Haiti, Katrina return to the news and our consciousness on these anniversaries. It’s the same with despicable actions of terrorism and murder and human error like 911, Sandy Hook, Columbine and Exxon Valdez. For many of us who were not directly affected, we get to think about these things once a year if reminded. For those who were directly affected, the pain and suffering and memories are a daily burden.
Who said you become an old guy when you spent more time looking back than looking ahead? My 8- and 5-year old grandkids certainly don’t spend much time talking or thinking about last year. On the other hand, some wise guy said that we understand backward and live forward, and another wise guy said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Maybe the best thing is to split the difference. Learn from the past to change the future— for the better. What’s the lesson to be learned from each “act of God” and “act of Man” disaster and how are those lessons applied? But isn’t that just what we should be doing every day?
The third memorial anniversary for the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami will come and go. Problems, big problems remain. The next memorial anniversary coming up? The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster. [Exxon Valdez 25th Anniversary: Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost]
Where were you on March 24, 1989? What have we learned and what difference has it made?