I don't know what it is about Japanese culture that makes them so kind to each other and polite in the wake of devastation. But I like it. I would like to think that if - God forbid - something like this occurred in my area that I'd be a decent human being. No looting, for instance. I do have a bit of that "would you steal to feed a baby" mindset though - yes, I would steal to feed my girls if I had to. But I'd like to think it would not be necessary.
I got a call saying that my Japanese cousin had in fact returned here from Japan a week before this quake hit, and I got this call while in the car with Abby and Lizzy, on that section of I-5 between Everett and Marysville that is tidal flats. When the tide is in (in Puget Sound) this area is covered with water, but when the tide is out it looks all cracked and crazed. So we were driving north over these flats when the phone rang - that's what Bluetooth is for - and it was my mom telling me that my cousin was fine.
So then the girls wanted to know what was going on and I gave them the G-to-PG version of events. "There was a big earthquake in Japan and then a tsunami, which is a big wall of water that moves faster than a car." After a certain amount of side questions, like, "Wait, Japan, isn't that where the Teen Titans go in the movie?" and "I can count to five in Japanese!", Abby asked if it "could happen here". Um... a really big earthquake could, but we have a mountain range between us and the ocean, so the tsunami notsomuch. Then there was an aside about earthquake drills at school.
This is the first big disaster Abby was old enough to understand that there was something going on, more than just general tension. She asked if we were going to go to Japan and help ("we personally won't but our government is sending people and supplies to help, and I already sent some money"), and whether people "get killed like drowned in the water". Yes, honey, I'm afraid they do.
Lizzy, on the other hand - all three and a half years of her - spent yesterday afternoon "being a pwetend eahthquake". Which illustrates that she does not yet grok any of the devastation. I'm keeping Abby away from graphic pictures and news reports as best I can, but at eight, she's old enough to understand the loss of life and property at least, if not the details.