A 7.1-magnitude aftershock rocked Japan on Thursday, making Claremont resident David T. Garrison's final night in the country an interesting one.
Garrison spent about two weeks in Japan with the Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope program (CRASH), which is a network supporting Christian relief work in Japan and around the world.
Garrison was set to return home from Japan on Friday evening, and he took time prior to his departure to speak with The O-N-E about his experiences in the quake-ravaged country. Because phone calls are so expensive, Garrison corresponded with The O-N-E via email.
Garrison said he fell in love with Japan after living in the country for several years during his teens. He attended school at Christian Academy in Japan and remained friends with the people he met there.
When Japan was hit with a devastating earthquake in March, Garrison said he contacted those friends to offer help any way he could.
"I was put in touch with CRASH, and they asked me to assist," Garrison said. "I did have to raise my own funds, and several local people and churches offered assistance."
Garrison left the United States on March 23 and arrived in Sapporo, which is on the northern island, Hokkaido. There, Garrison worked with missionaries, pastors and other church members to look at disaster areas in the northern part of the country and find a location for the CRASH northern base. CRASH has five bases set up in Japan to help with relief efforts.
Garrison then traveled south to Kuji, and his base was set up there.
"They had lost over three-fourths of the town, along with the hospital, so there were only a few hundred homes left there," Garrison wrote. "We did offer (a) mass feeding one day, as the only hot meals the people in the town were being fed were hot ramen (noodles). We fed them curry and rice, and they were most gracious."
Next, Garrison traveled to the Tono Base in a town of about 200,000 people. Of those residents, about 600 were confirmed alive after the earthquake.
"Most of the others were still missing," Garrison wrote. "One lady told us she had to go inland on a shopping trip, and that was the only reason she lived."
Garrison spent two days at the Tono Base before traveling to Tokyo.
There, he helped reorganize the CRASH command center.
Just a day before his departure, Garrison spent time in Hitachi, which is north of Tokyo. He trained a new base team and spoke with a group of Japanese pastors about how they can work with CRASH to assist their churches.
"Here, we are only 62 miles from the Fukushima Nuclear plant, and so there is great worry for the people here and to the north," Garrison wrote. "We will be sending volunteer groups up next to the exclusion zone with monitors, but no one will enter that area."
Garrison told The O-N-E that there was no real damage to Tokyo from Thursday's aftershock, but the event lasted about 5 minutes.
"What a night," he wrote.
Throughout his trip, Garrison chronicled his experiences on his Facebook page, detailing his relief efforts and the work he did.
"Again, I want to thank everyone who help(ed) support this trip," Garrison wrote in his final Facebook note before returning home. "I do feel I have made a difference here, just in the training I was able to do, and by helping with the organizational structure. I have been going nonstop since I have been here, and it really seems like I arrived yesterday."