Visitors to the Wang Center were greeted by the thunderous, steady pulse of taiko drums, which reverberated through the Wang Center’s atriums like a heartbeat. The Taiko Tides drumming ensemble stood in the lobby, beating out earthshaking rhythms that were synchronized in time to the Japanese call “ichi, ni, sore.” After the spectacle, a volunteer clad in a white shirt emblazoned with a silhouette of the Japanese islands directed students to the Japanese disaster relief fundraiser being held on the building’s fourth floor.

In a relief effort organized by a campus response team made up of figures from the departments of Asian studies, linguistics, and the office of the Dean of Students, among others, a total of $2,252.75 was raised for Japan on March 23 in a little under two hours. All proceeds were sent to the American Red Cross. The event included performances by the aforementioned Taiko Tides and the Ward Melville String Quintet, as well as refreshments, a video screening and a slideshow. White T-shirts commemorating and advertising the fundraising efforts were also sold.

“We are not equipped with fundraising efforts for this kind of purpose,” said Professor Eriko Sato, the director of the Japan Center, the Pre-College Japanese Language Program and a major organizer of the day’s events. “We can raise funds for activities in the university, but what we’re aiming at is raising funds and sending them to charity organizations that can directly help people in Japan. However, what we can do is very limited.”

With the help of a number of campus organizations, a support system was organized to facilitate the relief efforts. Immediately after University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr.’s notice regarding the university’s initiative for the tragedy was put onto the institution’s website, the fundraiser’s organizers were flooded with emails from a campus community eager to help in any way it could.

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“Our hearts are warmed, and we thank you,” said Jeffrey A. Barnett, the assistant dean of students, in a short speech at the event. “It is very indicative of the principle and spirit of community that is Stony Brook, and it’s a clear demonstration that we are all Seawolves, especially at a time when we need to come together.”

Michael Petrucione, a junior business major and the president of the Japanese Student Organization at Stony Brook, also held fundraisers with his organization throughout the week in high-traffic buildings such as the Union and the Student Activity Center. Though his family in western Japan was relatively unaffected by the quake, Petrucione understood what his countrymen were going through—in elementary school, he had experienced the massive 1995 Kobe earthquake, known in Japan by the name ‘Hanshin Dai-Shinsai.’

“I have a friend in Iwate [Prefecture], which was heavily affected by the earthquake,” Petrucione said. “He was safe, but the city he lived in was completely destroyed, and one of his relative’s homes was destroyed by the tsunami.”

However, Petrucione remains hopeful; in the wake of the catastrophe, he says that he “is definitely sure” that Japan will be able to recover, and referred to the Kobe earthquake as evidence of the resilience of the Japanese people.

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Linguistics major Yukiko Asano, who designed the T-shirts being sold at the event, said that while her friends are not in the affected Tohoku region, they are still feeling the disaster’s effects.

“Closer to the nuclear area, people can’t do their laundry like they normally do,” Asano said.

“We don’t use driers; people normally hang their laundry up on the balcony. But now they can’t do that, so people who don’t have driers now have to go to laundromats. Everyday things are changing.”

Students huddled around a table at the side of the room where tutorials on how to fold origami paper cranes—made famous as a symbol of world peace by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl affected by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima who tried folding 1,000 of the birds before she died of leukemia—were being held.

Jessica Copeland, a senior English education major and the president of Stony Brook’s Anime Club, had originally organized relief efforts with her club, too. Her fellow club members had made small paper cranes, which Copeland had decorated with kanji, or Japanese characters, and donated to the fundraiser.

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“When [Eva] Nagase-sensei told us they were already having a paper crane event, we decided to contribute what we already had to the table,” Copeland said. “All the little baby ones with the characters and decorations on them were from us, and a majority of the white ones are also from us.”

Copeland’s friend, Dave, was teaching English in Japan when the quake hit; however, Copeland said he was safe and sound. She urged the Japanese not to give up hope, saying that the hopes of Americans were with them.

“We’re making tremendous relief efforts—we’ve got your back, basically,” Copeland said. “As Americans, we will support the people of Japan, especially because so many youth in  “We’re making tremendous relief efforts—we’ve got your back, basically,” Copeland said. “As Americans, we will support the people of Japan, especially because so many youth in America love Japanese culture.”

Most striking about the event, however, was linguistics graduate student Hisako Takahashi’s impassioned plea for people to keep what happened in Japan in their minds. Takahashi, who is from Sendai, the Japanese city most affected by the earthquake, said it had been “extremely heartwrenching” to observe the situation in Japan. Although she had been away from Sendai for five years, she spoke of her hometown and nearby Matsushima Bay as if she never left.

“I lived there from birth to about five years ago, so my family, old friends, colleagues and teachers live there,” Takahashi said. “I was fortunate in that my family members are all alive, because our house is located about eight miles away from the Pacific Ocean.”
Though her family was safe, her hometown was devastated by the disaster. What was formerly known as a “modern city in harmony with nature and surrounded by a beautifu natural environment” is now a city whose waterfront area may never be rebuilt. Hundreds of thousands of people are now taking shelter in what Takahashi called “uncomfortable surroundings.” However, Takahashi expressed hope for the future of her country after what she referred to as “the most serious crisis since World War II.”

“We appreciate your support to help us rebuild the living environment from the very beginning,” Takahashi said. “Your support will give us hope to build something better than what we already had. Thank you.”

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