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F I N D I N G R E S I L I E N C E

These are snapshots of Japan following the 9.0 earth-quake and subsequent tsunami that, on March 11, 2011, turned the northeast coast of the California-sized island inside-out. Waves, heaved up by Japan’s largest earthquake, topped 132 feet and snuffed out the lives of more than 18,000 souls.

Feared missing in the catastrophe was Jessica Besecker, a 2008 Elizabethtown College graduate and assistant language teacher in Japan’s coastal city of Kesennuma. Though Besecker’s Dover, Del., family saw brief online postings by her fol-lowing the quake, there was no contact after the tsunami.

Besecker, 25, is one of several of the Elizabeth-town College community who were in Japan this spring. Trustee Kyoko Akanoma ’67 lives in Tokyo, 200 kilometers from the quake’s epicenter; senior Japanese major Mallory Hendricks and junior en-gineering/Japanese major Nathan Caudill were studying there.

five minutes long,” Besecker said, “but when you’re crouching on the floor of a building that you feel might fall around your head, it can seem like much longer.”

When her world stopped shaking, Besecker went outside. Beyond the schoolyard fence she saw “a long crest of white that stretched across the hori-zon” and heard the tell-tale tsunami alarms. Soon, Besecker said, the school’s parking lot filled with people seeking loved ones or shelter. As darkness came they saw fire along the harbor. Flaming oil was leaking from big ships, spread by wind and water. The nearby Shishiori residential area, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami, now was on fire. Exhausted, Besecker retreated to her cold car to sleep.

Two hundred miles south, the other Elizabeth-town College community members were experi-encing fear and fascination.

Mallory Hendricks, shopping with a friend in

“The whole way home, the ground didn’t stop shaking, like it was angry.”

Mallory Hendricks

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