Olympic volunteers strive to share stories of 3/11 disaster

Aug 1, 2021, 8:31 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2021, 6:05 pm
Olympic volunteer Atsushi Muramatsu shows business-card size flyers to express gratitude for suppor...

Olympic volunteer Atsushi Muramatsu shows business-card size flyers to express gratitude for support from overseas, during an interview with The Associated Press in Rifu, Japan, Thursday, July 29, 2021. He made the flyers to hand out to foreign media covering the 2020 Summer Olympics at Miyagi Stadium, where he is serving as a volunteer. (AP Photo/Chisato Tanaka)

(AP Photo/Chisato Tanaka)

RIFU, Japan (AP) — Atsushi Muramatsu’s handmade flyers are the size of a business card, written in several languages. “Welcome to Miyagi Stadium,” one reads. “The gymnasium next door was the largest morgue for tsunami victims.”

Over a decade after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, the Tokyo Games were supposed to offer a chance to showcase how much has been rebuilt. They were even billed as the “Recovery and Reconstruction Games,” and the Olympic torch relay started from Fukushima prefecture, the heart of the nuclear disaster area.

But the coronavirus pandemic means few spectators are coming to any of the Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, being held here. That leaves some Olympic volunteers having to find their own ways to recount their experiences to those rare fans who pass through, as well as members of the media.

“I believe that residents in disaster-hit areas want to express gratitude for support from overseas, and I also want to keep delivering a message that we want to be remembered,” said Muramatsu, who is serving as a volunteer at the Miyagi Stadium media operation center.

The stadium has a capacity of 49,000, but because of the pandemic, it’s one of the few venues that allow up to 10,000 spectators.

Another volunteer, Mieko Onuma, wants to return the favor to all those who supported the reconstruction by sharing her experience with Japanese visitors to Miyagi at a storytelling center set up near a shuttle bus station.

“When the disaster happened, I was working as a teacher at an elementary school. I feel a sense of duty to tell what happened that day, so I tell my stories here,” said Onuma.

Toshihiro Umeki, 14, came to see the soccer games with his father, but also joined Okuma’s storytelling session.

“Back then I was 5 years old, so I barely remember the disaster. So it wasn’t like recalling back my memories but rather learning new things,” said Umeki. “There were so many shocking things I didn’t know.”

On March 11, 2011, the magnitude 9.0 quake sent a tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The disaster heavily damaged coastal neighborhoods and took more than 18,000 lives in all, with around 10,000 people killed in Miyagi prefecture.

Muramatsu said he observed hundreds of dead bodies being cleaned after their recovery from the ocean, then carried to the gymnasium.

Being exposed to such scenes every day and hearing about the deaths of his friends, Muramatsu said he felt there was no line between life and death. What motivated him to stay alive was the daily conversations with foreign rescuer workers, who helped lift people’s spirits with a joke or a kind word.

“I want to pass on the message to the next generation that we have received so much support from overseas, and we shall never forget that support,” Muramatsu said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks during the opening of the 41th ses...
Associated Press

UN rights body rejects Western bid to debate Xinjiang abuses

GENEVA (AP) — In a close diplomatic victory for China, the U.N.’s top human rights body on Thursday voted down a proposal from Britain, Turkey, the United States and other mostly Western countries to hold a debate on alleged rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. At the […]
6 hours ago
Hiring sign is displayed in Deerfield, Ill., Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. The number of Americans fil...
Associated Press

More Americans apply for jobless benefits last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but the labor market remains strong even in the face of persistent inflation and a slowing overall U.S. economy. Jobless claims for the week ending Oct. 1 rose by 29,000 to 219,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Last week’s number was revised down by […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, speaks during a news conference in Chica...
Associated Press

Brittney Griner at ‘weakest moment’ in Russia, her wife says

WASHINGTON (AP) — WNBA star Brittney Griner is at her “absolute weakest moment in life right now” as she faces a hearing in Russia later this month for her appeal of a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession, Griner’s wife said in an interview aired Thursday. Cherelle Griner told CBS “This Morning” that her wife, […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Turkey appoints new ambassador to Israel as ties warm

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, the state-run news agency reported Thursday, in the latest step between the two countries’ efforts toward normalizing ties. Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, a senior diplomat who had served as Turkey’s consul general in Jerusalem between 2010 and 2013, was named to the post, Anadolu […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Sheriff: Dogs attack family in Tennessee, 2 children killed

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two young children were killed and their mother was hospitalized after two family dogs attacked them at their home in Tennessee, officials said. The dogs attacked a 2-year-old girl, a 5-month-old boy and their mother Wednesday afternoon in the home located north of Memphis near Shelby Forest State Park, the Shelby […]
6 hours ago
Traders gather around a post as Twitter shares resume trading on the floor at the New York Stock Ex...
Associated Press

Hot inflation slows 3Q earnings growth forecasts

Wall Street expects the latest round of quarterly profits to show burn marks from the hottest inflation in four decades, and the damage could linger into 2023. Analysts have been trimming their forecasts, especially in the retail and communications sectors, as inflation drives up costs and saps consumer spending on everything from food to clothing. […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Olympic volunteers strive to share stories of 3/11 disaster