For Japan's Elderly, Crisis Echoes WWII

Tsunami survivors tell stories of heroism, selfishness
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Mar 15, 2011 8:11 AM CDT
Evacuees stretch while doing exercise at a makeshift shelter in Minamisanriku, northern Japan, Tuesday, March 15, 2011.   (AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tsuyoshi Matsumoto)
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(Newser) – Younger Japanese aren’t familiar with the level of destruction wrought by the tsunami—but those who lived through World War II have seen it once before. Older residents of tsunami-hit areas long ago grappled with radiation risks and mass destruction. “I lived through the Sendai air raids,” one 75-year-old tells the New York Times, “but this is much worse.”

Today’s young people are experiencing echoes of the past, witnessing acts of selfishness—and valor. A 21-year-old tells the Times of taking refuge in a school where some elderly people were too weak to climb the steps to safety. Some youngsters were “shoving old people out of the way,” the man says. But other locals lined up to pass older neighbors upward. “I saw the ugly side of people, and then I saw the good side,” he says.

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