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Blog Topic: Coming Through a Natural Disaster
Pray and take action to help.

Most of us either have been through a natural disaster of one kind or another, or know people who have. For this week's creative challenge, please share an inspiring story on your Red Room blog (not here in the comments, please) about a time when life was turned upside down by such a catastrophe and what happened afterwards. Please tag your post coming through disaster blog.

"IN THE 65 YEARS SINCE WORLD WAR II, THIS IS TOUGHEST AND MOST DIFFICULT CRISIS FOR JAPAN." –Prime Minister Naoto Kan. In the weeks since the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis struck, we've been horrified by the images we've seen and stories we've read. But through the horror have come miraculous stories of individual sacrifice and survival, and the brave determination of the Japanese people to overcome.

More than thirty books about Japan»

A few bloggers will win books or a DVD by Red Room authors:

Mitch Cullin and Peter I. Chang's film Tokyo is Dreaming is a "rich and evocative tableau of life in the Japanese capital set to a beguiling score by John Convertino of the band Calexico." Cullin and Chang, partners in art and life, have been working ceaselessy since the disaster to spread the word about ways people can help Japan during this time. One of their favorite relief agencies is The Japan Society.

Tokyo resident Leza Lowitz is a poet, fiction writer, editor and co-translator of Japanese. Her newest book, Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections, collects "sixty poems on the Buddha's six 'perfections,' or qualities for a meaningful life—generosity, kindness, patience, joy, stillness, wisdom." She has been helping raise moneyfor disaster relief through Chabad Japan.

The destinies of two microbiogists, a science celebrity with a TV crew, and, and a mad scientist hatching plans from thousands of miles away converge around a volcano's catastrophic explosion in Karen Dionne's newest scientific thriller Boiling Point.

So post a blog entry today about Red Room's topic of the week

"coming through a natural disaster"

For help on how to blog, please see the directions here. We'll choose one of these blog posts to be featured on Red Room's homepage next week. Post your entry by Friday at 10:30 a.m. PST (GMT-08:00) for consideration, and be sure to tag it with the keyword term coming through disaster blog in the Blog Keyword Tags field so we can find it. (Please don't forget the exact tag. For more information about tags, click here.) 

And don't forget to check out the entries in our most recent blog topic on the subject of letting go. From a charming story about freeing a couple of hermit crabs meant as a gift to a harrowing but ultimately uplifting tale of a young marriage and divorce, Red Roomers showed that, as difficult as it can be to do, the effects letting something or someone go can surprise us.

Thanks as always for blogging!

Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room

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page 16

""Please return your headsets to the..."
Lager's disappearance was the start of May madness, a prelude, an omen. May 3rd, 15 day till graduation, Ta's father called from Bangkok.
"Your mother and I will be heading for Las Vegas and some Baccara on the 10th. Our connecting flight to Boston is on the 17th, TWA flight 106 arriving at 1:05pm. Please arrange for us to be picked up."he said.
And then the bad news. "That should give you plenty of time to sell your car, pack your bags and be ready to return with us to Bangkok on the 20th. My friend, the president of Bangkok Bank assures me you have a job waiting. You can start June 1st."
"Well, it's got that dent in the rear panel; I'll give you $5,300 for her." Billy Dewar, another graduating senior, his dad V.P at Phillip Morris in New Jersey, said.
Ta, she looked away, bent her head and held her nose as if not to cry. She shook her head yes.
Billy relunctantly reached for his wallet saying, "You sure she wants to do this? I feel like I'm breaking her heart."
"Your not. Her father is. We thought we had more time. We want to get married but she can't tell her parents, yet. She thought they'd let her go on to grad school." I said.
"Bummer. I never knew you guys but I saw you two around together. Cute, like two kids playing in a sand box. Telling you bro, never understood how you pulled it off."he said.
Counting out the cash, "I didn't. She did."
And like a thoroughbred getting a new owner Billy introduced her to Jazz. "She's going to hate that." I said.
Billy sucking into the seat, adjusting it back. He was a lot
taller than my 5'5" frame.
"She's not going to like that either." I added.
Billy couldn't hear me over his Col Porter.
"TJ?" he asked, rolling down the window to hear me better.
"If she starts to smoke take her up to 90mph in second gear; that should cool her off. And if that doesn't work take her out for Chinese food in Boston." I added.
I joked, but the storm front of reality was moving in. My umbilical cord of a sheltered life was about to be cut. I was in a boat about to get knocked off its mooring, a broken rudder with no paddles in sight.
May 18th, West Dorm was a perfect backdrop with its sloping hill down from the parking lot of the library where we stood. A perfect amphitheatre. The sound would be good.
Bridges Hall, the gym, to it's left with the memorial wooden bridge over the Contoocook River providing an unobstrusive but familiar background.
Me and Mike, our parents were bonding over small talk when Ta, one hand on her hat, the other pushing down her gown came running up.
A sea of blue, 330 graduates, in New England College colors were just starting to sit down.
"These are my parents, khun Phou, my dad, and my mom, Khun Mee." she proudly said.
Mike and I both folded our hands as if in third grade prayer and bowed our heads. "Sawadii, khrap."
"Which one is Mike?" Ta's father asked.
Ta pointed.
Looking him up and down, Khun Phou asked him, "You really a streaker?"
Mike, not content to be the SPD Fraternity entertainment manager had organised a group. They were going to be the first streakers in NEC history. He asked me to join, I refused. He said it was a secret don't tell anyone what we plan to do.
I made sure it wasn't and told everyone I knew.
Peter, two years our senior, an alumni, who ran the pub. He was in charge of the clothes. Driving them through town up to the back of the gym. I paid him to make sure he didn't.
It was supposed to be a run through town, 15 guys in ski masks and sneakers just before lunch, over the stone bridge, across the Contoocook river.
Ta enjoyed making them run up the hill to home.
They didn't know what was coming.
Every place along the bridge was taken.People who couldn't find a place were sitting on the cliffs above.
Mike not only got a photo op in the yearbook. Hands held high, knees pumping, someone caught him for the front page of The Concord Monitor, one of the most conservative papers in the country.
Ta confessed, "I sent dad your picture."
Khun Mee, cupping her hands to whisper in Ta's ear, "Mommy says you have cute buns." she told Mike.
Knun Phou looked at Khun Mee like she had just broken a commandment.
Then Knun Mee, who was not more than 5'2"" wearing a long silk body tank dress, a Roy Rodgers scarf around her neck and a silk shawl cupped her hand to whisper in Ta's ear again.
It wasn't a whisper, whatever she said inflated Ta.
Ta looked at her, her eyes getting wider.
"Cing mee? she asked.
"Dam cay luuk." she replied.
And as if presenting an award, Ta arched her back and ask me and Mike if we would like to come and spend the Summer in Thailand, mommy's treat.
Khun Phou instantly rejected, "Mee." like she had overstepped her bounds.
Khun Phou laughed about Mike but his laugh faded when he looked at me.
"Little Bangkok" gossiped with home a lot.
Khun Phou was protective.
Khun Mee was intrigued.

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Coming through Disaster-THE SAFETY ZONE

A romantic weekend!

My sister Patty and her husband, Marlin, were on a long-awaited break, relaxing alone at our family’s remote hunting cabin. The first evening, they gazed out at an idyllic meadow, sipping cold drinks, and watching the sun set beyond the purple hued mountains. Far off in the distance, a thin column of smoke rose into the pink clouds.

It had been a hot, dry summer. The worst forest fires in thirty years had destroyed more than four million acres of northern California forest. But those fires were too remote to concern them.

At dawn the next morning, they were surprised when firefighters. stopped by the cabin. The fires had spread into the forest a few miles away, they were told, but the winds were blowing in the opposite direction. No one anticipated danger, yet protocol warranted that everyone in the area received a warning.

The firefighters predicted that within a few hours the fires would be under control. Hundreds of fire engines, bulldozers, air tankers, helicopters, and water trucks had come to the Mendocino National Forest from all over the country to do battle with the forces of nature. Many of these strike teams were from urban and suburban areas, unaccustomed to forest conditions and unfamiliar with the tangle of pines, oaks, and manzanitas that feed a fire frenzy.

The atmosphere changed. By mid afternoon, the sky was dark and the air was acrid with smoke. The temperature had risen to 105 degrees. A distant roar like a waterfall reached their ears. Patty and Marlin were hurriedly throwing things in their truck to leave when two fire trucks sped up the dirt road and stopped abruptly next to the cabin.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Captain T. J. Welch shouted. The wind had shifted. A firestorm was coming their way at more than seventy miles an hour. All exits out of the canyon were blocked.

Battalion Chief Chris Pollack had devised a plan. The sixteen civilians trapped in the valley were being gathered in the meadow around the cabin. This acre of lush green grass would be the safety zone, everyone’s last hope of survival.

Ninety firefighters had been spread out along the roads, trails, and hillsides in the fire’s path. Their orders were to stay put until the fire was upon them, then to light a backfire and escape to the meadow.

The wind-driven flames raced south and east, sucking the oxygen out of the air and scorching everything in their path. The intensity of heat and smoke must have been terrifying. If a single firefighter had panicked and lit the backfire too early before fleeing, lives would have been lost.

The sound was deafening as the retreating firefighters and their trucks began arriving at the meadow safety zone. Marlin and several others had sprayed fire-resistant foam on the cabin and nearby area. Now they pumped water from the creek to keep the surrounding ring of trees from exploding in a fury of flames. Ash billowed up, coating everyone’s teeth and burning their throats. The civilians were ordered inside the cabin and told to lie on the floor. Patty calmly distributed wet towels to breathe through, but they dried almost instantly. Marlin was still outside, pulling fire hoses until they melted from the intense heat. He returned to the cabin to hold Patty close one last time. “I don’t think we are going to make it through this one,” he whispered.

Patty thought of our deceased father who had been a Captain in a volunteer fire department for forty-six years. “Daddy,” she prayed, “please don’t let us die like this.”

A running crown fire came rolling down the hillside toward the cabin, moving faster than any human could run. Trees vaporized. The energy released was a hundred times that of a normal forest fire, with an explosive force nearing the intensity of a small atomic bomb. Death seemed seconds away.

No one panicked. Everyone prayed.

Then, almost imperceptibly, the roar began to diminish. The smoke thinned slightly, and they could see each other. Finally, someone rose and peered out through the heavy storm shutters. The fire had passed over them.

Everyone stayed at the cabin for two more days until rescue workers could clear an escape route. Instead of evacuating with the others, my brother-in-law and sister drove to the top of the canyon where they could use a cell phone to call for supplies. My mom, brother, sister, son, and nieces hurriedly filled several trucks with supplies—food, water, beverages, toilet paper—all the necessities to care for the firefighters over the next ten days and drove for hours through the devastation.

The fire continued to rage for fourteen days in nearby canyons, ultimately burning over eighty-two thousand acres. It became the second-worst firestorm in United States history, but not a single life or home was lost because of the discipline and courage of these firefighters. These heroic men and women stuck to the main plan exactly and concentrated on survival for all, not just for themselves.

As a television reporter said later, “They had to look the devil in the eye and not blink.” Of course, as everyone will admit, a little prayer didn’t hurt either. Our family believes that my dad heard Patty’s pleas and did his part to save lives.

Afterward, our family made a sign saying, “Thank You, Firefighters. God Bless You. ” God did indeed bless them that terrible day.

Since then, my sister and her husband hold annual reunions at “the safety zone” with the firefighters who saved their lives. (This extraordinary combat between man and nature was cited in a special national training video for firefighters and aired as a feature story on 20/20.)

Survival can be highly dramatic, worthy of the front pages. It can also be ordinary, something we do daily almost without taking notice. We should celebrate both. Acknowledge your major victories, but don’t forget to salute each small triumph. Each time you remain positive in the face of adversity and find your personal safety zone, you are one step closer to being the star you are.

© 2011
Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best selling author, speaker, coach, and Founder/Executive Director of the literacy and positive media charity, Be the Star You Are!®. Tune into her popular life changing talk radio program at http://www.StarStyleRadio.com.

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So many

There are just so many and it shakes one up. But we are mostly sitting at a distance. I would recommend Keiko Amano's few last blog posts on Japan since she is currently in her home country. They give quite another glimpse from mainstream media thought.

~F