THIS letter, written by Vietnamese immigrant Ha Minh Thanh working in
Fukushima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, was
posted on New America Media on March 19. It is a testimonial to the
strength of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of
life near the epicenter of Japan 's crisis at the Fukushima nuclear
power plant. It was translated by NAM editor Andrew Lam, author of "East
Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." Shanghai
Daily condensed it.
How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in
chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I
also see dead bodies.
I am currently in Fukushima , about 25 kilometers away from the nuclear
power plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could write it all down,
it would surely turn into a novel about human
relationships and behaviors during times of crisis.
Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity
organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that
snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He
was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line.
I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn't be any food
left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the
earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was
driving to the school.. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he
saw the tsunami sweep his father's car away.
I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and
that his mother and little sister probably didn't make it. He turned his
head and wiped his tears when I asked about his
The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him.
That's when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it
up and gave it to him. "When it comes to your turn, they might run
out of food. So here's my portion. I already ate. Why don't
you eat it?"
The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away,
but he didn't. He took the bag of food, went up to where
the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be
I was shocked. I asked him why he didn't eat it and instead added it to
the food pile. He answered: "Because I see a lot more
people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will
distribute the food equally."
When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn't see me cry.
A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of
sacrifice for the greater good must be a great
society, a great people.
Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours
of my shift have begun again.
Ha Minh Thanh
************ LESSON TO LEARN FROM JAPAN ***********
10 things to learn from Japan.
1. THE CALM
Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has
2. THE DIGNITY
Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude
3. THE ABILITY
The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn't
4. THE GRACE
People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could
5. THE ORDER
No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just
6. THE SACRIFICE
Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will
they ever be repaid?
7. THE TENDERNESS
Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared
for the weak.
8. THE TRAINING
The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they
did just that.
9. THE MEDIA
They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters.
Only calm reportage.
10. THE CONSCIENCE
When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the
shelves and left quietly!
sent by Ms. Mathangi