Japan Disaster: School video helps students survive tsunami
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Kamaishi City, Japan -- There was a joyful sound when elementary school students returned to their own town of Unosumai to start classes.
Their schools were destroyed by the tsunami so they returned to school in a temporary building. This month was the first time they've been back since the tsunami a year ago.
"At the time of the earthquake I was fearful. When I went to the first evacuation place they said the tsunami could even reach here. So we escaped farther up to the hill," student Kazunori Nihonmatsu said.
Hundreds of adults in the community died, but all of the students survived. They ran for safety just minutes before a wall of water covered their schools. Community members credit a survival program that teaches children about tsunamis.
“We have been doing this evacuation drill with neighboring junior high school students since the first grade. That has been nine years," student Yuta Frusaki said.
The drill was so crucial, a few years ago, students made their own survival video that was shown in the schools.
In the video, they pretended to be power rangers. They instructed kids to always run to the hills if a tsunami was coming. Photos show the children evacuated as practiced when the March 11, 2011 tsunami struck.
"At first we escaped to the nearby senior citizens center. Afterward, we held the elementary school students' hands and escaped to the evacuation center in the hills,” student Shoya Satoza said.
"The success of the children having escaped to the high places was due to the lessons learned on this DVD," explained principal Ken Hirano of Kamaishi Jr. High School.
Now, students are focused on math, reading and subjects, but as they marked the 3-11 anniversary, they were asked to write about how precious life is.
"The most important thing they learned is the value of life, secondly, the relationships between people and the sense of appreciation for what you have. I think these lessons have been developing in their hearts," Principal Toshihiko Sakashita, of Unosumai Elementary School, said.
Community members say the kids are just trying to be just children in a difficult time.
Saturday, YNN’s Dean Meminger continues his series. He will travel to a Northern Japanese city that was devastated when one of the largest fishing cooperatives was crushed by the tsunami.