I have been following developments in Japan via my wife's twitter account; it has been an excellent source of information.
However, there have been some tweets, mostly dismissive or scornful, about people who are "fleeing Tokyo," as if they are being panicky, thoughtless, or cowardly.
Well, Joan is on crutches from a leg injury. It is very difficult for her to move. If something were to happen (and I don't think that it will), there is no way that I want to take the risk of evacuation or panic. With a population of over 30 million people, any "incident" would be a nightmare situation to deal with. Our controlled departure to Osaka by night bus last night was extremely difficult and stressful, compounded with that 6.0 which occurred while in the basement of a skyscraper. It was horrible. Should I wait because someone called me a "chicken?"
The situation in Tokyo over the last few days has been a combination of earthquakes, tsunamis, reactor issues, decreasing food and utility supplies, and general upset of daily life (trains, etc.). In my seven years as a volunteer fire fighter and four years as an EMT, I have seen and dealt with many terrible situations. I have seen many people wait too long to make a decision. I also know how hard it is to make the right decision with so much uncertainty.
As much as I didn't want to leave the city that we love as our new home, after a great deal of painful deliberation and discussion, we made the difficult decision to leave Tokyo until things calm down. It was a risk I could not and would not take. It was not a decision we made lightly, and I resent the implication that it wasn't.
While I understand that emotions run high in times like these, I think it is very inappropriate and unhelpful to judge and criticize others for the decisions they make in difficult situations. It is even harder to make the right decision when feeling that one might be judged unfairly for it.
A teacher friend has recently gone to Nagoya with her young child to stay with her in-laws at the request of her husband. He has a long commute from home, works long hours until late and does not have the luxury to be there for his family. He is constantly worried about what is going to happen and what will happen if he cannot be there, if, God forbid, "something" happens. Should he have kept his family in Tokyo because some people might think he is overreacting, panicky, or cowardly? Perhaps we should consider the complexities of the situation before making snarky tweets?
While I cannot speak for everyone who has left Tokyo, I can only assume, they, like us, feel horrible and guilty about leaving friends, families and their lives behind. I question the decision every minute I am here, but I can't - and shouldn't - feel bad about it.
As Joan said, "I'd rather feel silly about leaving than stupid about not leaving."
These are difficult times for everyone, and we should spend more time supporting each other and less tearing each other down.