Pictures started shaking on the walls, the blinds rattled and a small, egg-shaped clock on the coffee table danced about until it almost fell to the floor.
This was the scene in the Tokyo apartment of Jessica Brack, a 2007 Kansas University graduate and the daughter of Graham and Carrie Gordon of De Soto, as an earthquake struck March 11.
Graham Gordon was visiting his daughter, who lives on the Naval Air Facility Atsugi base with her husband, naval lieutenant junior grade Ryan Brack.
“My wife and I lived in Japan for a number of years when I was in the Navy, so I’d experienced earthquakes before,” Gordon said. “I realized this one was different when it lasted so long. Things were shaking for at least two to three minutes.”
Gordon and his daughter, who took shelter in the door frame to the apartment’s hallway, were not hurt during the quake.
Back in De Soto, Carrie Gordon, Graham’s wife and Jessica’s mother, woke up to news of the devastating earthquake in Japan on CNN.
“I was worried until I saw that commercial airlines were still landing in Tokyo, then I knew they had to be OK,” she said. “Then (CNN) showed the map of where the quake hit the hardest, in the north, and I knew they had to be safe in Tokyo.”
With some difficulty, Graham and Jessica got a call through to Carrie in the states that same day.
Graham Gordon returned to the States on Monday, while his daughter stayed behind with her husband, her job and her new friends.
“We talked a lot about whether (Jessica) should come home then or even yesterday but she was torn,” Graham Gordon said. “She felt a responsibility to stay with her friends and her job, so she did.”
Despite Jessica Brack’s wishes to remain in Japan, the U.S. military has different plans. Her parents said that Jessica, along with all U.S. military dependents in Japan, will be evacuated to the states sometime in the next few days, most likely due to the threat of nuclear disaster.
“Right now we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns,” Carrie Gordon said. “We don’t know when she’ll be sent home, where exactly she’ll be sent or how long she’ll have to stay.”
In addition to the stress of an evacuation, Brack’s husband will remain in Japan along with the rest of his active squadron. Ryan Brack is a helicopter pilot working on naval relief missions.
“I know Jessica is wondering when she’ll see Ryan next, but at least she’ll be able to e-mail him on the ship,” Carrie Gordon said. “This really isn’t any worse than any other mission he’s been on. He’s had a busy year at this post.”
The Bracks have been stationed in Tokyo for about a year. His assignment to Atsugi is to last another two years.
“Jess was just home for a visit in January; she didn’t plan on coming back again until the coming fall,” Carrie Gordon said. “As soon as they get the ‘all-clear’ sign, she’ll go back (to Japan), but who knows when that will be.”
For everyone in the family, not knowing what the future holds is the hardest part of a bad situation.
“What’s happening with these nuclear reactors is just terrifying. We feel terrible for the people of Japan and all that they’ve endured,” Graham Gordon said. “I hope they can get a handle on things and that Jessica will just get home and we’ll get things figured out, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”