Tag Archives: earthquake

Student Struggled to Contact Family in Japan Post Earthquake

Spring break didn’t start off ideal for USF senior Rafai Eddy. While getting a haircut on March 10, his younger brother called him on the phone alerting him of some news—Japan had been hit with a 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

Immediately after, he turned to news casts and used every possible mode of communication to contact his mom in Asagaya, Tokyo, who lives with his maternal grandmother.

Eddy’s mom eventually sent him a Facebook message to notify him that she was fine. Later he found out that his grandma was also safe at home.

None of his family’s valuables were damaged by the earthquake. Had things turned out worse, Eddy said, “I can’t imagine losing my family members in such a way. It’s just devastating.”

Eddy, who is half Japanese and half Trinidadian, grew up in Japan before coming to USF. Eddy’s father left to visit relatives in Trinidad days before the earthquake, and Eddy had to break the news to him about the earthquake via e-mail.

Eddy kept close contact with his friends from Japan who “didn’t seem too worried about it. So that gave me a sign of relief. But it was definitely stressful.”

According to Eddy, Tokyo’s solid infrastructure kept the city from experiencing far worse damages and that people in Japan are used to having earthquakes once or twice a month, but his mom was not prepared for one with such a massive impact.

Professor of Asian Studies Stephen Roddy said that temples and shrines are now being used as shelters since they are built at higher elevations.

When news of the increasing radiation levels broke out, Eddy said the radiation level in his hometown of Asagaya was at eleven percent. His mom contemplated leaving the country, but since Japanese news reports did not advise civilians to evacuate, she decided to stay.

Rafai Eddy and Family courtesy of Rafai Eddy

Senior soccer player Rafai Eddy was born and raised in Asagaya, Tokyo. (Courtesy of Rafai Eddy)

Many children lost their parents due to the earthquake and tsunami. Many of these casualties live in Sendai,the city most impacted by natural disasters. Eddy’s mom is considering adopting children.

“It makes me feel bad that I can’t do anything right now to help those people individually, but I really want to,” Eddy said, “I haven’t been through what they’ve been through, but I have the utmost respect for them.”

Eddy was baptized Catholic, though not an active churchgoer,  and, he said, “I definitely took my time to pray for the victims and for Japan as a whole, that and my family’s safety.”

What’s most striking, Eddy suggested, is Japan’s quick readiness to restore their country. Eddy describes Japan’s response to the disaster by saying that “people figure stuff out quickly.”

He said that Japan has an advantage, compared to the locations of other natural disasters in recent years, such as the Haiti earthquake, because people there live to work and they’re going to get the work done.

Eddy said, “I’m really happy and proud about what people are doing in Japan right now to help the situation. This is our country and this is what we have to do. We have to help and we have to do it fast.”

Roddy suggested that Japan’s actions were representative of Japanese culture.

“I think,” he said, “that the strong desire to care for the victims and bring early relief to the affected areas does reflect a certain community solidarity across Japanese society” and related to the Shinto, a Japanese spiritual belief.

Eddy is currently at the university on a soccer scholarship and majoring in International Business graduating in spring, at which point in time he will most likely move back to Japan. Along with his younger brother, Eddy hopes to find a summer job to help rebuild Sendai.

Eddy said, “[The earthquake and tsunami] really gives you a reality check. I was lucky enough not to lose anything but it’s always that thought of what if.”

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Teach-In For Haiti Highlights Earthquake Aftermath

Haitians use the proverb “Lave Men Swiye Yo Ate.” In English, it means “wash your hands by wiping them in the dirt.” This proverb sums up what the U.S.-Haitian relations have been like, according to Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and chair of the Lawyer’s Earthquake Response Network. In his estimation, America has metaphorically washed its hands of its responsibility to Haiti by supposedly aiding the country in ways that end up hurting its economy instead.

In response to Haiti’s diminishing media coverage, USF held a half-day event last Monday to update the community on what is happening and what still needs to be done in Haiti.  Teach-In on Haiti, sponsored by the Provost’s Council, featured an extensive list of expert panelists.

Anne Bartlett, USF professor of sociology, served on the humanitarian panel and said that since the earthquake, Haiti has received $5 billion in aid. Being the poorest country in the Americas, 80% of its people live on less than $2 a day.

U.S. Director of Sion Fonds, Annie Blackstone, spoke on behalf of the non-governmental organization (NGO) working in Haiti. When the earthquake hit, her work office collapsed. Blackstone, who is the adoptive mother of two Haitian children, recalled one of her sons’ remarks concerning Haiti’s immediate coverage after the earthquake. When the office fell to shreds, her son said, “I’m really sorry it took people this long to… help.”

Blackstone said that Sion Fonds was founded as a response to the earthquake, to support Haitian mothers and their children. It provides children the opportunity to attend one of its three different schools, since “most children don’t go to school because parents can’t afford it,” she said.

Another NGO, the What If? Foundation, has also supplied Haiti with assistance. Pamela Keenan, resource development coordinator, said that the organization was founded in 2000 to provide needed meals to hungry children. What If? is able to feed 1500 meals a day, 5 days a week in Haiti.

During the political and historical context session, Brian Concannon gave light to U.S. aid and said that the United States’ “amazing outpouring of generosity is leading the way in the international community.” The United States has promised $1.5 billion over the next two years to help Haiti re-build itself, even with a recession.

Prior to the earthquake, Concannon said that the major conflict that has affected Haitians has been the food crisis. The U.S. free trade policy during Bill Clinton’s presidency was one of the factors that contributed to the crisis. Because of the policy, U.S. agriculture out-competed Haitian farmers in selling rice, when in 1987 Haiti nearly grew all their rice. Since the policy, Haiti now imports about 80% of their rice, making up a third of the U.S.’ rice imports, despite that it’s a third world country.

As a result, farmers went out of business and moved to over-populated cities looking for work, usually ending up in sweatshops. They also resorted to slums built on steep ground and piled in unsafe floors atop each other (eventually succumbing to the earthquake).

U.S. food aid has also factored into the crisis, even though it seems unlikely. As means to rid its subsidiary corn, the U.S. distributed it to Haitian markets. However, the more food aid there was, the more farmers lost their jobs, which led to hungrier families who couldn’t support themselves.

Other factors included Haiti’s international debt, incurred since its independence from France in 1884, and the government’s destabilization. According to Concannon, the U.S. kidnapped Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004 by leading him on an American plane to a South African prison.

Pierre Labossiere, cofounder of the Haiti Action Committee and boardmember of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, said that it was an act that declared that Haiti can’t do for themselves. At the time, Aristide was investing money for infrastructure on hospitals and schools, but it didn’t happen. Instead, the coup d’etat kept Haitains away from healthcare, education, and clean water, among other things.

“What people need is solidarity,” Labossiere said. People need “with no political agenda. Governments are donating money and doing so much, but you have given so much, neighbors who are unemployed have donated money, insisted on sharing and thanks every one of you.”

USF Alumna of ‘74 Created Earthquake Safety Pamphlet

Candace Stevenson.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Candace Stevenson. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

It’s been twenty years since the Loma Prieta Earthquake. The quake itself measured a 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. At the time, Candace Stevenson was in Italy with her mother. But her father, Joseph Stevenson, was trapped in his small apartment on Fulton Street.

“My father was a hero,” tears wash over Stevenson’s face as she says it. She recalls how her father had been injured during the earthquake and was unable to get out of his apartment. For seven days, he suffered alone without food and water.

“No one bothered to check on him,” she says. She explains how her father, the selfless hero who had given to so many, had been abandoned in his most crucial time of need. “In a natural disaster you never know how people will react.”

A friend of the family promised to check up on Joseph; she never did. A family member was nearby at the time of the earthquake; he never checked on Joseph. Even the landlord didn’t check up on him. Yet despite all of that, despite seven days without food and water, he survived.

“It was a miracle from God that my dad survived,” says Stevenson. Sadly four months afterwards, her father passed away in February, 1990. Upon her father’s death, Stevenson sought to change local, state and federal laws to insure the well-being of tenants after a natural disaster.

“This is what I want to see happen,” says Stevenson. “I want to see these five things happen.” She explains that the first thing she wants is to make it mandatory that Earthquake City Inspectors must check every apartment after a natural disaster to make sure that tenants are safe. Secondly, she would like a Disaster Register for the elderly and disabled in San Francisco, which would have all pertinent information on each individual, such as name, address and medications.

Third, she wants landlords to be responsible and held accountable for checking up on their tenants after a natural disaster. “They should be held responsible,” she stresses the point multiple times.

Fourth, she says, “Everyone needs to take responsibility in an Earthquake and not assume someone else has been checked.” Fifth, she highly recommends people go through the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Training. Stevenson rummages through a pile of stuff and pulls out a hard hat. She puts it on and smiles broadly; on the side of the hat is a sticker that reads, “NERT.”

Before the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Stevenson lived a jovial life. She graduated from USF with a B.A. in Italian in 1974. She studied singing growing up and subsequently became a singer. She traveled from the U.S. to Italy on singing jobs and eventually got a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

Once her father died, everything changed for Stevenson. Her father had been her hero and without him she was “lost.” Joseph served in the Army in the 1920s. He became a Private First Class but was injured and taken to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco in 1926. It was then that he decided to stay in the Bay Area.

He saved pamphlets, letters and other memorabilia from his Marine days. In particular, he saved the menu to a Christmas Dinner his army company had in 1925. “All this meant so much to him that he kept it,” says Stevenson.

At the start of WWII, Joseph attempted to re-enlist. “He wanted to go fight Hitler,” says Stevenson. But he couldn’t due to his injury.

To Stevenson, her father wasn’t just a war hero; he was a hero in everyday life. She recalls that he once found a homeless man on the street suffering from alcoholism. Joseph then took the guy home and essentially “detoxed” the man.

“That’s the kind of man he was. He didn’t have to be told to do something. He just did it,” says Stevenson.

Like her father, Stevenson has also embarked on aiding people. After her father’s passing, she wrote the president, vice-president, each Congress member, Supreme Court Justices, and every state governor, urging them to take on initiatives to insure the safety of tenants during natural disasters.

On the federal level, she helped design the passing of bill H.R. 3533 – the “Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 Amendments Act,” which would “increase earthquake awareness and education, and encourage the development of multi-State groups for such purposes.”

Currently, a memorial honoring Joseph Stevenson can be seen at the Marines Memorial at 609 Sutter Street.