Fuko Chiba: This I Believe

May 25, 2011

15- year old Fuko Chiba was visiting her family in Japan in March when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the island. She’s a ninth grade boarding student at Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, Connecticut.  Here’s her “This I Believe” essay about what happened.

When the earthquake hit Yokohama, I was alone in the house. The first thing I noticed was my fish tank’s water tilting to one side. Then many doors in the house opened by themselves. The ground beneath my feet started to move, and objects on the shelves fell on the floor. All the lights went out. At first I didn’t grasp what was going on, but soon I became completely terrified... I felt totally isolated from the outside world, and I wished someone was there with me.

My father couldn’t take a train from his hospital because all public transportation was stopped.  I felt relieved when my mother finally reached the house.

I have a question. Why am I here?  There are 16,000 people dead and countless others struggling to stay alive, but I am safe.

When I was home I thought I had a choice. I could come to United States and escape, or I could stay in Japan and feel solidarity with my countrymen. I decided to stay. I knew how much I would regret it if I became the only survivor among my family and friends when things got  worse. This was just the beginning.

My friends and family would not let me stay. I tried so many ways. First, I cried. It didn’t work. Then I lied that I was expelled from this school, so I couldn’t go back.. I am terrible at lying. All my attempts failed. My mom even made the day of my flight back earlier, just to make sure I was safe.

Why am I here?

On the day I had to depart, my mom said these exact words. “Fuko, remember that a person’s death isn’t within their control. And the fact that you are alive right now is a miracle. You must always put your hands on your heart and know that YOU are responsible for living. You have a chance to go to the United States, which is safer than Japan right now. I know you are feeling guilty for leaving your people behind, but you are standing on top of all the victims. Make sure that you live your best because your life isn’t only YOURS, but it is all of OURS”.

I didn’t fully understand what she meant at first. But now I do.

I didn’t have any option of not living to my fullest from the beginning. I am
responsible for giving 100% of my effort to live because I survived out of the sixteen thousand. Right now, I am standing in this room, but what really are below my feet are wishes for the survivors to recover from their losses.

I must live a life that I can be proud of, not only for myself, but for all the victims who gave me a chance to last. This is my mission and it won’t be complete until I die.

Why am I here? The answer is because I WILL live my life without leaving any regrets.

This I Believe.