The dancing yellow glow of candlelight illuminated the faces of about 90 William & Mary and local community members who gathered in the Wren Yard Monday night to remember the victims of the earthquake that devastated Japan just one month ago.
But the vigil, sponsored by the William & Mary Japan Recovery Initiative, was about more than just reflection. It was also a challenge to continue supporting the country, which experienced yet another aftershock mere hours before the event.
“Time will pass and things will move on, but please remember it will take many months and quite possibly many years for the people of Japan to recover from the shattering disaster that happened just a month ago,” said Hiroshi Kitamura, associate professor of history. “Please keep Japan in your hearts and your prayers. In our global society of today, they are a part of us as much as we are a part of them.”
Aiko Kitamura, an instructor of Japanese who organized the event, opened the vigil by reflecting on the March 11 “Great Eastern Japan Earthquake,” which has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths with even more missing.
“Today is the one-month anniversary of this unspeakable disaster,” she said. “We would like to honor and support its victim with students, staff, faculty and friends of the William & Mary community.”
A slideshow was displayed, showing scenes from Japan along with some statistics about the disaster’s impact. The video also included information about some of the events and activities that have been organized at William & Mary in response to the tragedy as well as pictures of students, faculty and staff holding written messages of hope and support for the Japanese community.
Following the slideshow, the a cappella group Passing Notes performed while candles were lit. Next, a moment of silence was held.
Later, Hiroshi Kitamura and Steven Pau ’14, discussed their experience in the wake of the disaster.
“I stand here today as a Japanese person who cares about my home country deeply,” said Kitamura, whose mother lives near Tokyo. “I also stand here as a member of the William & Mary community, a community that cares deeply for those in need of love and support.”
Kitamura said that Williamsburg has been “shocked and appalled” by what happened in Japan.
“But at the same time, it has been reassuring to see how so many of us have come together to assist those who are in dire need of a helping hand, and I say this as I see every single one of you here at this vigil tonight,” he said.
Pau, who lost two cousins in the tsunami, said he was “depressed, confused, hopeless and unable to do anything for a long time.” However, he is now motivated by his desire to help Japan.
Pau said that the slideshow presented everyone there with a question: “How will you help?”
“While the task may seem daunting, together we can make a difference. Already in the past month, I have seen student organizations across campus working to heal Japan,” he said, noting organizations such as the Japan Recovery Initiative, Heal Japan, the Japanese Cultural Association, the Japanese Language House and several others that have put together initiatives and events to raise money and awareness.
“I cannot even begin to express the amount of pride I have for this school and the sense of community and compassion I feel from everyone here tonight and everyone who has kept Japan in their thoughts,” Pau said.
“It makes me proud to know that all of you are here tonight to support Japan, and I truly believe that together we can restore hope to not only the Japanese people but those around the world but those around the world who have been affected in any way by the disasters that have taken place.”
Isshin Teshima ’11, co-president of the Japanese Cultural Association who closed the event, said that one of his fears is that the people of Japan will be forgotten once news of the disaster leaves the headlines.
“But, me seeing all of you out there today, it really gives me hope that William & Mary will be there every step of the way to support the Japan relief efforts,” he said.