Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years today

Five years ago today I was in a car with R driving through eastern Hokkaido. We had just taken a trip to Shiretoko, but had decided to cut the trip short by a day to avoid the typhoon that was approaching Hokkaido. We left Shiretoko in the early evening of the 11th, and we made a stop in Kitami at SATY, a large supermarket, to stretch our legs and buy some snacks. On the second floor of SATY I was browsing the stationery section when R said he was going to the restroom. When he came back, though, he surprised me with a present: an adorable small soft doll of a chick wearing a rooster costume. I was touched at the gift.

After our brief stop at SATY we got back in the car and continued on our way through rural eastern Hokkaido heading for Sapporo. By now the sun had set and the sky was pitch black, but the shrill ringing of my cell phone pierced the darkness. It was friend from college who was living in Kobe at the time. "Are you watching TV?" she frantically asked. I said no and asked if something had happened. Her answer stunned me.

R and I rushed back to Sapporo as fast as possible, listening to the radio the whole way and sending panicky emails to friends in New York from my cell phone hoping to find out if they were alright (they all were, thank goodness). As soon as we stepped through the door of my apartment at 3am, I turned on the TV and was immediately shocked by the enormity of what had happened. I felt numb and nauseous at once... I had just graduated from college in New York the year before, and it was hard to believe that such an awful thing had happened to a city I loved on such a beautiful September day.

The world had changed much since then, and when I look back it feels surreal all that has happened in only five years. At the same time, it feels surreal to think that five years have already passed since that dark night. The only thing that has stayed the same is that little doll that R bought for me at SATY. I keep it out as a reminder of those lilting minutes spent in a supermarket in Kitami that became the last moments we would experience before the world seemingly turned upside down.


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