I signed up for preliminary earthquake notifications through USGS about a year ago. Every earthquake around a 6.0M, even miles underground, gets its own notification text. The theory is this: a cell phone's signal will travel faster than an earthquake wave, so you'll at least have a bit of a warning when a big quake hits.
Occasionally a Japanese fault sends out a minor quake deep in the ocean, but in the last few days there were more Japan quakes than usual -- a good five ranging from Mw 6.0 to M 7.2 before the big quake.
I should have paid more attention to the magnitude of the next, and of the update text that bumped it up to M 8.8. For the rest of the night I got text after text.
"(Mb 6.4) NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN"
"(Mb 7.1) OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN"
"(Mb 6.1) NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN"
On and on....
Through it all I was thinking, "Man, Japan is gonna explode or something!" so it surprised me when my mom came into my room around 5:00 am and read a text to me that my dad had sent.
"an 8.9 earthquake just hit Tokyo mass destruction, [t]sunami also hit..."
Ya know what's funny? I wanted to wake up early this morning. I tried to go back to sleep when my mom closed the door, but I was practically in shock. I don't know why it hit me so hard. It was probably from the fact I had received over 20 texts about earthquakes in the same "...EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN..." region.
Along with that, I felt like I was in the middle of it all. I felt (though I was in a just-woke-up stupor) that with all the texts I got I could have done something with warning. I wanted everyone in Japan to have gotten the same texts, so they would have known about what was coming. It was devastating and I felt it. I wanted to be there to help.
From 5:30 to near-10:00 I watched unreal news broadcasts, in the back of my mind always hoping it was just a dream spawned from the "mild" seismic activity the night texts signified. I wanted to wake up, but still haven't. Can't I just go help?
It was better to hear that it was the 6th or so preliminary message that was from the actual M8.9 quake, meaning that the rest were underwater/subterranean aftershocks. The few texts before could have given notification, but not enough to save the potential 1000+ deaths and injuries. It really was a tragic accident.
For one, people did make it out safely with barely only 5-10 minutes' tsunami warning. It's good Japan was more ready for it than not.
The thing is, how unified to the rest of the world--especially Japan and the US regions in the tsunami warning--do you feel today? Don't you feel for the people affected in watching this amazing coverage? It's a lot like Haiti, Katrina and New Orleans, the Gulf oil spill, the 2004 Sumatra tsunami, and 9/11, among other natural and civil disasters. The world is taking a look at huge, freak destruction and offering aid. Apart from pure devastation, what's different so suddenly? Why the sudden urge to replace competition with selfless giving?
And the real question: why can't the countries that are helping always have that mentality? The truth is, the world will forget. In barely a month, most Americans will probably go on with their lives and trudge back to the mundane "normalcy". That shouldn't happen. It will.
I hope the best for Japan's recovery.