A March 11 memorial, with a human touch, may prevent future disasters
It was impossible to hold back tears upon reading an article in the Mainichi some two weeks after the massive March 11 earthquake about a 10-year-old girl at an evacuation shelter.
It was accompanied by a photo of the girl with a bright grin as she played with friends.
According to the article, the tsunami had swallowed up her mother and unborn sister, and her father was still missing. She cried and cried on the day of her mother's burial but hadn't shed a tear since, the girl's grandmother said.
The forced smile on the girl's face was a painful sight to behold.
That was just one child and her experience.
There are many more stories of life and death like hers.
Over 20,000 are dead or missing from the disaster.
"Over 20,000" may be just a number, but each one of that over 20,000 represents a human life, each with their own families and dreams.
Naturally, supporting and rebuilding the lives of those who survived is a pressing need. But isn't it the act of sharing those things people left undone when their lives were cut short, and continuing to mourn those people and their losses, that's really going to help us prevent such a tragedy from happening again?
Isn't it remembering the victims that will push us become better prepared for disasters in this island nation?
I want to make a proposal, knowing full well that some will say that it's too early.
I want us to build a memorial with the names of all those who were lost in the disaster, putting it on a hill that overlooks the destruction along Japan's northeastern coast.
Considering how many names there would be, the memorial could be composed of multiple components, or it could be one long monument.
I've envisioned a memorial like the Heiwa no ishiji -- known in English as the Cornerstone of Peace -- in Okinawa, which commemorates both civilians and military members who died in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., which honors U.S. soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
The names of people lost in the earthquake and tsunami could be organized by where they lived and who their families and relatives were.
A museum could be built nearby with a directory of all those were memorialized, where visitors could easily find out where on the monument particular names were inscribed.
That would help for people wanting to leave offerings such as flowers at particular names.
The museum could display video footage and photos of damage done to the region, as well as, with loved ones' permission, personal items that belonged to the deceased.
The facility would fulfill a role similar to that of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.
In addition, to the extent that it is possible, the stories of individuals, where and how they met their tragic ends, under what circumstances they were last sighted by survivors, what their hopes and dreams were -- again with the permission and understanding of their loved ones -- as well as accounts of survivors' searches for their families could be exhibited.
The memorial doesn't have to take the exact shape that I've suggested, and multiple memorials could be built in a number of locations.
But I think it's important that any memorials that are built for this disaster be solemn settings where anyone can go to remember the dead and recommit ourselves to action against future tragedies.
The most important thing is that we do not let the story of the disaster seem removed and unreal, but instead keep it in our hearts and minds as a current lesson to live by.
That is where the real meaning of mourning the dead can be found. (By Tetsuo Nakajima, Editorial Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年4月28日 2時30分