Bridget Pieschel: Report from Tokyo

March 12, 2011 10:18:00 PM



Editor''s note: Columbus native Will Pieschel lives and works in Tokyo. His parents are Steve and Bridget Pieschel. The following is an e-mail report from Bridget, parts of which are quoted in a story about the Japan earthquake. 


I was really glad to hear Will''s voice when he called at about six p.m. this evening. It was about 8 a.m. in Tokyo, and he was still at his desk in the Price Waterhouse Cooper Building in the "Government District" in central Tokyo.  


He sounded calm, but tired, and kept yawning, although he said that all of them had made coffee to this morning to get them started again on corporate tax returns due March 15th. He and all of his colleagues slept in their chairs and on the floor of the office last night.  


Will says he''s glad he keeps a toothbrush at the office. All night they felt aftershocks, but he said he actually got three or four hours sleep. His plan today is to work until five or six, and then, if the trains are still not running, he is going to try to walk home to his apartment building, which should take about 45 minutes, to get some sleep. He heard that there is electricity in his neighborhood. I hope he''s right. I asked if any of his office mates had not been able to get in touch with relatives near the quake epicenter. He said, yes, some were very worried, and that there were those who had very close connections with people living near the quake. For example, his friend, David, also works at PWC, and plays saxophone in Will''s band. David recently lived in Sendai, the epicenter of the quake, and it is his wife''s hometown.  


Before the main quake struck, Will said that they had been noticing small quakes for several hours. Then the big quake started, increasing slowly, and their office intercom system told everyone to take earthquake positions. This order means that they are supposed to put on their helmets from their "Earthquake Bags," make sure they have their flashlights and whistles with them (and their bottle of water and "power bar" for food) and get under their desks. They all did as told.  


Will had always told me that he was not convinced that the helmet or anything else would help if the entire building collapsed, which is what he began to think was going to happen as the quake continued. He said the shaking was intense, and the floor rolled. It seemed longer than any other quake he''d experienced. The ceiling tiles began to fall. He said he believed that this quake was going to collapse all of the floors together, and just tried to prepare himself for that. Then, gradually, the shaking slowed and stopped, although there have been aftershocks every hour or so since then.  


Finally, he said he crawled out from under his desk, and since nobody could go anywhere, he just started working on tax returns again. However, I''m relieved that before he got back to taxes, he sent me an ''I''m alive" e-mail. Since his big brother Nick had begun trying to get in touch with him, he exchanged a few quick e-mails with him too. Nick said, about Will getting back to the tax returns, "That''s typical Will; most people would have headed for the nearest bar." 


A few years ago, when Will was teaching English in Niigata, Japan, he went through a quake that was nearly a 7 magnitude, and thought that was pretty frightening, but now he realizes that quake was nothing compared to what he went through yesterday. He told me to thank everyone for their concern, and said he was glad he and everyone he knew had survived relatively unscathed.  


He wanted me to know that he had talked to Mary Simmons, his good friend from Columbus, who also works in central Tokyo, and that she was unhurt also. I am, of course, very thankful to God that he was not harmed. 


Will thinks Tokyo''s business district will be operating normally within days, but that the tsunami area will be devastated for months. As with our Katrina survivors, their world will never be the same, and they will be looking for bodies in the mud and muck for months.