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Western alumni gather online in solidarity with Vikings in Japan

By Deboarah DeWees | Executive Director, Western Alumni Association

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Dan Levine

As reports of a major earthquake in Japan broke on March 11, the entire campus held a collective breath. We hoped for the best. And then we reached out to our alumni living in Japan – who were grateful for the compassion and support our community expressed.

I am pleased to report that all 12 Western students studying abroad in Japan are safe and accounted for. I’ve corresponded with more than 50 alumni living in Japan. They have shared their personal stories – some downright hair-raising – and encouraged us all to help with the recovery effort in any way we can.

David Clement (’86, Business Administration), a senior director for Oracle in Japan, reported that he was on a ski trip in the mountains near the quake’s epicenter, away from the tsunami. “Tremors and aftershocks hammered us all through a sleepless night,” he reports. Clement later managed to board a train back to Tokyo, joined by “2,000 skiers who had been waiting at the station for more than 24 hours.” Clement was considering sending his family from Tokyo to his in-laws’ in Hiroshima in case radiation leakage from the Fukushima nuclear plant became too severe.

Alumna Mariko Fujikubo (’96, Political Science) lives in Japan and although unharmed by the earthquake, her thoughts about recovery were poignant and her call to action is clear:

“Thank you for worrying about us in Japan. My family and friends are all safe except a few unknown. The shake was unearthly on the 11th and we are still in fear of continual aftershocks coming in two to three times a day, mostly with the magnitude of five or six. Adding to this we are exposed to the radiation fear from the Fukushima NUC power plant.

“But we stay warm with gas and electricity and with enough food, way happier than the suffering people without houses, in the snow-falling weather, with almost no heat. Serious lack of gasoline prevents the truck drivers from carrying food and oil for heaters to the affected areas and the radiation fear exacerbates this isolation, particularly for Fukushima people.

“Please have these people in your prayers. The weather in Northern Japan is very harsh with wind and snow still.”

In the weeks that followed the quake and tsunami, my inbox filled with emails from alumni expressing concern for those affected by the tragedy, and our social network activity skyrocketed as alumni asked how they could help.

This sense of community from alumni nurtures my belief in the human spirit. Thank you. Please keep Japan in your thoughts and feel free to contact me anytime.