Like most of us, I’ve never lived through a tornado, hurricane, flood or other really bad natural disaster. Just damned lucky. As a longtime resident of the Northwest, I’ve been shaken around by an earthquake or two. Just shaken. Not stirred.

So, again, like most of us, I have absolutely no idea how people in Northern Japan are feeling, what they’re thinking or how deeply they’re suffering. Pictures of total devastation show an unworldly landscape. Especially one video from a town of about 12,000 people, shown going about their business. Ten minutes later it was a pile of soaked rubble. And all the people seen on the street before probably died in those 10 minutes.

While no one can guess, with any certainty, what most of the survivors will do, my gut says a lot of them will go right back where they were. I say that because, in the news business, I’ve covered a disaster or two.

In the early ‘60’s, for example, while a reporter at KFAB-AM-FM in Omaha, I reported on a couple of major floods. Every few years, the normally peaceful Missouri River on the city’s East side would cover some of the low lying land. And take out a few homes. After a season or two, you could tell when it was going to happen again.

One of the worst things about flooding is, although some of the buildings that survive look pretty good, most of them have to be demolished because of internal water damage to basic structural and utilities systems. Which means, by the time any real rebuilding can start, often the large area is just so much flat ground.

One particularly bad Spring, with high water threatening downtown Omaha, I was sent to a temporary shelter to interview some of the people who had been flooded out. Few wanted to talk and there really wasn’t much you could ask them except “how do you feel?”

One old fella, a rare native of the area, caught my attention. Bib overalls, soiled hat, several days growth of beard and a cigarette. He was quietly watching a small black and white TV set. I sat down beside him.

“What now,” I asked inanely?

“What do you mean,” he said. “I go back. And I start again.”

“Why,” I asked again? “Why go back.” He looked at me like I was from a foreign country.

“Because that’s where I live,” he said matter-of-factly. “That’s where I’ve lived for 67 years. The damned river don’t live there. I do!”

The Japanese are a rooted people, in a country smaller than California but with four times the population. Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, huge fire storms, foreign conquerors and even atomic bombs are just some of the catastrophes that have assaulted them. They’re not strangers to deprivation and suffering. Their culture has historically demanded patience and often superhuman perseverance. And, above all, sacrifice.

But, in recent years, younger Japanese lifestyles have become more Western. Our electronic interconnectedness has created a different atmosphere for them. The 20, 30 and 40-somethings, especially in the larger cities, live in a culture difficult, in many ways, to tell from our own. Clothes, cars, music, outlook … much different than their parents just 20-30 years ago.

Now, many younger Japanese are facing terribly hard living conditions and the need to sacrifice like they’ve never known. While not a new experience to their parents and grandparents, for them the electricity has always been on, food was always available, homes were warm in winter and cool in summer. What will their reactions be to this national tragedy? When the peace, comfort and all material things they’ve ever known are gone?

I can’t even begin to guess. But I’ll bet the older Japanese are a lot like that old gentleman in Omaha so many years ago. I’d bet that, if you went to one of the shelters and looked up one of the Japanese seniors who had been displaced, you’d find a wrinkled, bearded face.

And you’d be told, “The tsunami doesn’t live there. I do.

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