The little train that could, together with the smart man that knew, and the tough mother that dared brought tears to my eyes. When the tsunami hit Japan on March 11th of 2011 there were many remarkable survival stories.
Sixty people where on the train when the earth began to rumble and shake. The train immediately came to a halt. The conductor shouted for everybody to get off; a natural reaction in any earthquake. So, all sixty passengers left the train and stood on the tracks expecting more shaking any minute.
Instead of shaking, something much more ominous lurked in the distance. They were in the middle of nowhere; a massive tidal wave, powerful and deadly, was approaching swiftly. Then, a passenger shouted, "get back on the train! Get back on the train!" There was no time to ask the man why, or argue with him. The wave, full of debris and amassing more as it quickly came towards them, threatened to overrun and engulf the train just like it had overrun and engulfed everything else in its path.
The man who had told everyone to get back on the train realized something the others did not. It just so happened that the train had stopped at the highest point of the track, on a hill. Well, perhaps it wasn't quite a hill but it was an incline. The passengers gathered together in one compartment and held each other while the man explained how the water would seek out lower ground before tackling the elevation. Hopefully, if they were lucky, it would go around the train. They sat and waited, covering their ears to dampen the deafening roar of advancing waters.
Just as they had hoped, the wave embraced them, stopping short of reaching the train. Oh! The joy in the compartment...but now what? They were miles away from civilization, surrounded by dangerous sludge and debris. Not to mention the weather. Temperatures had dropped below zero outside and in the train. The electricity, and therefore the heat, was off. Night fell. They insulated the doors with whatever they could find to keep the freezing-cold blazing wind out. They shared what little food they had...and waited. As time went by, they began to worry.
One of the passengers, a ten-year-old boy, was traveling alone. He was on his way home when he and the others got stuck on the train. Now he lay on the floor sleeping peacefully in the pitch-black darkness of that eerie night. Most passengers were loosing hope considering the situation in which they found themselves: a surreal moment in time full of uncertainties, disconnected from the rest of the world and stranded in an endless apocalyptic landscape, in freezing, subzero weather and virtually nothing to survive on. One young girl began texting a farewell message to her parents. If anyone found her phone, they could give it to her parents and they would know her last thoughts were with them. She told them she loved them and thanked them for everything they had done for her. Others cried in silence.
Daybreak. Fifty-nine men and women were huddled together, utter stillness in the air. One little boy lay sleeping, still. No more rumbling, knocking, screeching, banging, crackling and cracking sounds outside. Mother Nature was resting. Or was she? More knocking? It can't be...someone was trying to pry the compartment door open. Suddenly, she stood there at the top of the isle; she ran towards her slumbering boy. The mother of the ten-year-old had come looking for him! She knew what train he was on and took it upon herself to trek through mud and an obstacle course of debris; she literally went through hell and high water to find her little boy.
Fear and anxiety turned into relief. If the mother could find her way to her son, then she and the other passengers could find their way back.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this story. 'Never give up' comes to mind, 'trust your instincts, keep a positive outlook, help each other' etc. but the one that never fails to amaze me is the power of the human spirit; a mother's love for her child is a bond more powerful than the deadliest of catastrophes. It will drive her to undertake the most extraordinary exploits. The tsunami tore apart and destroyed a record number of families, but I am convinced there isn’t one mother among the victims that didn't fight to the last in order to protect, save her child.