Japan suffered a 9.0 magnitude earthquake last Friday, followed by tsunami waves that destroyed villages, hamlets and towns lining the country’s northeast coast. Japan’s land size is about the same as the state of California. The disaster also severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The official death toll is nearing 5,000, but thousands more are missing and the final toll is likely to soar.
York, 40, a Japanese native, has elderly parents living in a Tokyo high-rise, about 165 miles from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.
“They’re living on the 10th floor of a high-rise condo,” she said Wednesday. “My mother is 75 and my father, 81, and they said this was the biggest quake they’ve ever felt in Tokyo.”
They escaped with no injuries and no damage to their residence. However, they said that some of the older Tokyo residential buildings suffered some minor damage, such as broken windows and items falling off shelves, York said.
She said she talks with her parents almost daily, and they are not worried yet about radiation hazards from the damaged power plant.
York was born and grew up in the Tokyo area. She came to the U.S. in 2000 to marry her husband, whom she met at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and who lived in Mableton.
“My father told me that I wouldn’t be able to find any job here except in a Japanese restaurant,” York told the Sentinel in a 2008 interview. “I saw a sign in a store one day that mentioned ‘EMT,’ so I went on the Internet to find out what it was.”
York found that EMT stood for “emergency medical technician,” and she decided to pursue that type of work. She earned her EMT certification at what was then West Central Technical College.
In 2007, York started an exchange program which brought several Japanese firefighters to Douglas County to study American techniques and share training information.
Japan TV sent a crew to Douglas County in 2008 to film York while she worked a 24-hour shift at Station 1 in Lithia Springs. (She now works at Station 11 on Dallas Highway.) The program, “Chikyu Agola” (roughly translated in English as “Square Earth), was shown on the Japanese satellite channel.
York said Wednesday she wants to thank the American people for all their contributions and assistance to her native country during this disaster.
“Please continue your donations to Red Cross, Salvation Army and other relief organizations,” she said. “There’s still a lot of people who are isolated in villages without power, food or medicine.”