Allan Cook: How to Remember

The following is a report by Allan Cook documenting his experiences as a Peace Boat volunteer in January 2012.  Allan has also produced a number of iReports for CNN, which can be accessed using the links below:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-731892
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-732353
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-733741

Allan’s report:

I went to Ishinomaki with Peace Boat as a member of the 93rd group on January 6th-14th as the first group of the 2012.

On the first day of volunteering our group of foreign volunteers and our translator helped to remake a small farm that had been washed away by the tsunami.  First we cleared the ground of rocks and weeds before levelling it and making borders out of pieces of wood that we found scattered around.  We then spent the rest of the day mixing the soil and filling up the farm.

One of the most memorable part of the week was meeting the local people and getting to understand their situation.  Talking to them it was easy to understand how much the Ishinomaki meant to them.  For most it was their entire life!  They fish there, farm there and so for those that survived, the disaster pretty much destroyed the essence of their lives.  For that reason the support of NGOs like Peace Boat is all the more important. 

One of the most memorable things that I heard from one of the ladies who we had made a farm for was about her concern over the Fukushima nuclear Plant meltdown. “The tsunami destroyed everything but we can rebuild it.  But the disaster at Fukushima has polluted our land, so now we can’t sell our produce to make our livelihoods!” 

As the week came to a close and Peace Boats message that we must not forget what has happened here, and we must tell others so that they know too, and I looked at the destroyed city that would one day be rebuilt.  As I had been posting reports about the earthquake on CNNs iReport since 3/11 I wanted to add a few reports about my experiences with Peace Boat and to spread the word that recovery is still on-going and volunteers are still here. 

The first I posted was about the Urawa High School boys who were volunteering with Peace Boat; it was really amazing to see so many youngsters contributing so much. I also posted photos and a video called “Nature – Beauty and the Beast” which I really felt highlighted the cruel side of nature in the form of the tsunami, and the amazing side which was the beautiful natural scenery in Ishinomaki.  I also had a photo of a fisherman who caught and cooked-up an octopus for us, used online for Metropolis magazines “Photo of the Day”.

By the end of the week however, I felt perhaps those buildings could tell the most important message!   I could see the future where Ishinomaki is rebuilt and the buildings that were destroyed and the horrific memories that are connected with them are gone.  And I realised surely we should leave some of them just as they are to keep telling their story for decades to come!  Remaining as a warning not only to Ishinomaki and Tohoku but to the world as Hiroshima is a warning to the concerns regarding nuclear power.  Ishinomaki and many places throughout Tohoku are a symbol of the tragedy of tsunami. 

Every day that I volunteered in Ishinomaki I passed by the building with a bus atop the roof of its 3rd floor, carried their by the waves.  When Ishinomaki is rebuilt I can see no better way to warn future generations about the tsunami than to leave it as it is untouched.

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