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YORKE: The view from far away: We're all shook up

One week ago, an epic, magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean near northeastern Japan at around 2:46 p.m. local time.

One week ago, an epic, magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean near northeastern Japan at around 2:46 p.m. local time. The quake was felt throughout the island nation, causing damage such as blackouts, fires, tsunami and flooding, not to mention the potential radiation exposure from nuclear power plants.

It also reminding us all that the world can shake and none of us live on completely stable ground.

From thousands of miles away, eyes were glued to TV screens, images of destruction flicker past as we all tried to comprehend the magnitude of what had just happened.

I found out about the quake early Friday morning as my phone awoke me a few precious moments before my scheduled alarm. It was my mother; she had heard about the earthquake and was concerned as my cousin Jack, who had just travelled to Japan the day before. She had been calling my grandmother's number repeatedly but no one was picking up and she was desperate to know that Jack was okay.

I immediately clicked on the television and ran to to find what had happened. People in Japan held onto table legs as we sat idly by and watched the world shake and tumble from a safe distance., images of collapsed bridges, crushed cars and debris scattered like chip crumbs so surreal that the sheer magnitude became incomprehensible.

At a time when our environments and lives are so tightly programmed and controlled, we have no control over natural disasters. Not even your iPhone can control nature and your iPhone can control everything.

This event certainly made North Americans look at ourselves and compare our preparedness in the event of a similar situation. Some had no problem loudly proclaiming their superiority when it comes to safety.

On the local news here in Chicago, there seemed to be a need to state that if that had happened in America "we" would be more prepared, "we" would have reacted better. In attempt to breath some peace into unquiet minds that have been struck with a discomforting reminder that we do not have ultimate control of all things, the news media reassured the American public that they could handle it better. Never mind that Japan is among the nations best prepared to deal with shakers.

Back to Jack: After many phone calls, we found out that he and his 21 classmates on a trip to Japan from Argyle secondary school in North Vancouver were safe. We learned Jack's flight had been redirected to an emergency landing field in Sapporo as, luckily, they were flying in when the quake hit. The kids were later flown to Tokyo and were accommodated at the hostel originally scheduled for their trip and apparently spent a morning sightseeing in the areas not affected by the earthquake.

They were to fly home on Wednesday (after this was written). While there, he told family he had taken many pictures and in an email described Tokyo as amazing and said he wished they could stay longer.

Clearly, the students were kept occupied and cared for even though it was so hard to believe given the images of homes destroyed, people displaced and mourning.

But throughout Tokyo and other parts of Japan, people return to work, shops reopen, debris is cleared and aftershocks are dealt with. People keep going and we hope for the best.

Naomi Yorke is a Port Coquitlam student who lived in Shanghai, China for four years, writing about her experiences twice a month for The Tri-City News. She now lives in Chicago, where she's attending art school, and continues her column.