Japanese Rotarian remembers the day the earth shook
On 11 March 2011, Nobutake Sugawara woke up at 6 in the morning, ate breakfast, and left for work.
At lunchtime, he attended the meeting of his Rotary Club, Ishinomaki East, Japan. He was at home at 2:57 p.m. when he felt the earth shake.
“Right after the earthquake happened, due to the shutdown of electricity, we could not use our cell phones, which prevented us from communicating with each other and inquiring about each other’s safety,” he recalls. “After the phone lines got back to normal, we learned that our club president had passed away.”
It took local Rotarians a month to learn the full extent of the devastation in their city of 170,000. Thousands died in Ishinomaki, including many whose bodies were never recovered. In addition, 30,000 people lost their livelihoods.
“We, as Rotarians, would like to keep as many employees as possible,” says Sugawara, whose company supplies propane and manages gas stations. “I have not laid off any of my employees.”
Two months after the earthquake and tsunami, Sugawara traveled to New Orleans for the RI Convention. As former coordinator of a student exchange program, he knew a lot of people there.
“Many of my friends from all over the world told me, ‘Our district is undertaking fundraising for you, so please tell us what you need.’ An experience like this makes me appreciate that I am a Rotarian. I came back from New Orleans feeling so happy.”
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