I had a feeling a few weeks ago, call it a sixth sense if you like, that my parents might get caught up in a natural disaster. They were in India at the time and I had a feeling that there might be fatal flooding, a terror attack or something else uncontrollable that they might get caught up in. As it happened I had the wrong country.
A day after returning from a holiday in India with my mum, my dad flew off to Tokyo for work. Now bearing in mind that my parents travel the globe a lot, especially by dad, and also bearing in mind we are bombarded with 24 hour rolling news, and bearing in mind there have been a string of natural disasters and terrorist attacks in recent years it is not really that much of a coincidence that I saw something coming. I wouldn’t even call it a sixth sense, more an inevitability.
My dad is fine, he is home safe and well, having had first hand experience of the four minute earthquake that shook Japan on Friday. In many ways he was quite lucky due to modern technology letting him down. His flight home on Friday was delayed and had he known he would have travelled to the airport later and been in the capital city when the earthquake shook. Since all roads to the airport were cut off after the earthquake it is highly likely that he would still be in Japan now, caught up in the hysteria of nuclear meltdown.
As it happened however he was informed that the flight was delayed via his mobile phone, but since this was a 2G and not a 3G phone (despite being less than a year old) it did not work in technologically advanced Japan. Therefore he was unaware of the flight delay and headed to the airport for the original flight time.
This meant that he was at the departure lounge waiting for his delayed flight when the earthquake shook , and therefore was first priority to get on a plane once flights were reinstated the next day. The airport were keen to get passengers rebooked on flights rather than staying in the airport where they would be expensive to feed and water. Although he endured a nerve wracking aftershock-laden night in the airport, Saturday morning he was automatically booked on a flight home, and was back in the depths os Wales by the evening.
For the uninitiated my dad is a professor of psychology and has studied a number of different things over the years such as criminal behaviour, arson, how people respond to their environments and most relevant of late – how people react in emergency situations. So although the earthquake was an unsettling and anxious experience it was also a chance for him to see his theories in practice and make a mental note (and probably some in his notebook too) of how the Japanese responded to the earthquake and its aftermath.
He then recorded his in the field observations in an article for The Times published on Monday. Although the article was cut it still gives a sense of the scene at Tokyo airport and the largely calm manner in which the situation was handled by staff and passengers. The original full article can be read here: Shaken but not Scared. A copy of the piece with photos is here: http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2011/03/shaken-but-not-scared/
I hope that like my dad I would do the same in that kind of situation; the journalist in me would grab my notepad and start writing, whilst remaining compassionate to the people around me.