Locals concerned about friends, family in Japan

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

For most Shelby County residents, images of earthquake devastation and explosion-rocked nuclear reactors draw compassion and sorrow for those affected by Japan’s recent disaster.

But for others, the uncertainty surrounding the country is taking a much more personal toll.

Alabaster Personnel Director Clark Boyd was born in Japan, and still has several family members, including a daughter, in the country.

Boyd’s daughter lives in Kyoto, which is directly west of Tokyo on the side of the country closest to Korea, and his mother, his aunt and nieces and nephews live in Fukuoka, which is on the northern tip of Japan’s southernmost main island.

Although his family members live hundreds of miles away from the heart of the devastation surrounding Sendai northeast of Tokyo, the threat of a possible radioactive leak from Japan’s several damaged nuclear power reactors has Boyd worried, he said.

“I am concerned about that,” Boyd said March 14. “They had all the nuclear safeguards working, and this morning they had a huge hydrogen explosion.

“Now, I’m worried,” Boyd added.

For Birmingham resident Jenny Miller, a 1998 graduate of Thompson High School who taught English at Iki High School in Nagasaki, Japan for two years, a lack of communication from some of her former students and co-workers has her concerned.

“I’ve been trying to get in contact with my old students and co-workers, and I’ve heard back from some of them,” Miller said. “But I still haven’t heard back from several of them.”

Judging by the correspondence she has received from her former friends and colleagues, Miller said many people living in Japan may not fully comprehend the magnitude of the unfolding disaster.

“The e-mails I’ve been getting have been pretty short. They talk about how sad it is, and how everything is just destroyed,” she said. “I will ask them how far away they are from the Fukushima nuclear reactor, and it’s like they aren’t getting the same information we’re getting.”

Because Miller lived and worked in Japan from 2002-2004, she said she still feels a close connection with the country.

“It’s just horrible. Because I lived there for two years, I feel like I have a bond with the country and its people,” she said. “Even though I’m not there, I feel like it’s happening to me too.”

As the disaster’s death toll rises and new developments, such as the March 13 eruption of the Shinmoedake volcano in southern Japan, unfold, Boyd and Miller said they are trying to help in any way they can.

“A lot of this has really hit close to home for me,” Miller said. “It’s been a long weekend.”

“As Christians, we believe in the power of prayer. I appreciate all the prayers I can get,” Boyd said.