BV staff members connect to Japanese crisis

Caitlin Holland, Editor-in-chief

Communication arts teacher Linda Eagleton turned on the morning news on March 11 to headlines describing a tsunami and earthquake crisis in Japan.

Her mind raced. Her daughter, Sydney Eagleton, was in the country teaching English in a high school in Kanuma, a town on the inland portion of the nation. She rushed to the computer to contact Sydney.

“There was already a message from her saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m OK,’” Linda said. “If I hadn’t been able to get a hold of her, or if I didn’t have the message right there I would have never been able to.”

Linda said Kanuma did not experience extensive damage because of the earthquake, but Sydney left the area for a friend’s home farther south one week after the crisis.

Kanuma, approximately 100 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, was indirectly impacted by the crisis. Linda said the city experienced rolling blackouts and train tracks snapping, making it difficult for food to be transported to the area.

From her friend’s home, Linda said Sydney was able to make arrangements to fly to Singapore two weeks earlier than intended — she had previously scheduled a vacation there.

Linda said she feels lucky her daughter was stationed in Kanuma, because she could have easily been in a coastal city at the time of the crisis.

“Right after that, several times, I couldn’t sleep at night,” she said. “I’m still worried about her. I was watching CNN one night and it was a mother of a daughter in the same program who had died, and I was awake in the night crying because that could have easily been Sydney depending on where she was assigned. It’s just luck of the draw.”

Linda said Sydney returned to Japan on April 5.

“She’s paying attention to the reports,” Linda said. “I want to respect that decision [to return to Japan] if we all think it’s safe. We’re just watching those reactors carefully and the news to see what’s going on there.”

Zoology teacher Eric Driskell’s close friend, 1992 BV alum Josh Swift, resides in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo. Swift, who lives about 250 miles away from the nuclear reactors, told Driskell the damage where he resides wasn’t extensive, but his front porch was ripped off his home during an earthquake aftershock.

“He said it was pretty scary,” Driskell said. “I’ve never known him to be scared of anything. Tough college football player, good father. He just said, ‘Honestly, it scared me to death. The moment of not knowing it was going to end, the earthquake — it kept going and going.’”

Swift’s family did not evacuate their home. Driskell said Swift’s in-laws live about 20 miles away from the nuclear power plant, but were hesitant to leave their home after the crisis.

“They’re in the middle of it,” Driskell said. “They refused to leave because they’re traditional Japanese. That’s who they are and where they live.”

Driskell discussed the Japanese crisis in his classes, and also used that opportunity to try and help Swift.

Driskell said Swift sent out an email trying to find a place he and his wife could send their two dogs in case they would need to evacuate their home, something several of Driskell’s students volunteered to help out with.

“I just thought it would be cool to tell the students about it because I have a platform to do that as a teacher,” Driskell said. “A lot of people want to help, but they don’t know how.”

He said knowing Swift made him realize how much of an impact this event had on so many lives.

“Even as an adult, when you’re so far away from the actual disaster, it didn’t really hit me how terrible it was until you really talk to somebody you know that’s there,” he said. “I think that really was an eye-opener for me and one of those light bulb moments, where I said, ‘What can I do to help?’”

The program Sydney works for, Japan Exchange Teaching, through the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, posted an outlet on Facebook for people to donate $100 to the relief efforts. Linda said, upon returning to Japan, her daughter plans on assisting in relief efforts in the hardest-hit areas of the nation.

“I could see her going north every weekend and working,” she said. “If it were safe to do that, it’s what she would be doing.”

Throughout the weeks after the crisis, Japanese and U.S. news outlets’ reports have varied.

Linda said Sydney expressed disappointment over discrepancies between news reporters’ views on the crisis and what actually happened.

“She’s frustrated by the U.S. second-guessing the Japanese,” Linda said. “She’s trying to be realistic, but she doesn’t think it’s fair for the media to make it sound much worse than it is. She’s looking for reality, not sensationalism.”