There's a god for that
One of these video clips has haunted me ever since: a helicopter, following the tsunami’s track in a high-level panorama, vividly captured the churning mass and its crushing force as it swallowed telephone poles and outbuildings, as it raced across level ground, before reaching an embankment that was four or five meters in height above the farmland. Atop this embankment, two cars were racing to safety. The drivers, seeing that they would be overtaken no matter how fast they might go across the levee, sharply turned off the embankment, down a farm road that crossed it at ninety degrees, and followed a new course of escape that put the oncoming tsunami directly behind them instead of broadside to their movement. At least one of the cars was able to outpace the tsunami. But the other car appeared to be within seconds of being overrun. As this high-speed drama was unfolding, the helicopter was gaining altitude and the cameraman was shifting his camera’s view-port to gain a wider perspective of the whole tsunami; thus, the pilot and cameraman were oblivious to the human drama in the corner of their screen. And just seconds before the car made its escape – or didn’t – the drama was lost off the edge of the screen. That driver has been on my mind ever since. Did she outpace the wave, or did it pick her up like a surfboard and carry her forward? Did she suffer injuries or was she a fatality? If she somehow made it to safety, what of her loved ones, her neighbors, her home, her livelihood? And how would she cope with having survived?
That haunting image, for me, tipped the balance of the day’s events away from the earthquake and towards the tsunami. NHK must have sensed this too, because the video clips that had repeatedly been shown – of falling ceiling tiles, and rocking office cabinets, and frightened office workers bracing themselves under desks – gave way to fresh video clips of crashing waves. Over time, more video clips arrived and were broadcast, and the world began to see the horrors from a closer vantage.