Richard Ashman: Echoes of NOLA in Japan

For New Orleans residents like myself, whose memories of?Hurricane Katrina?are indelible, the tragic aftermath of?Japan’s tsunami?seems eerily similar.?Waves washed homes off their foundations, piled cars on top of houses and dumped large boats inland as if they were children’s toys.?

After Katrina, Japan’s government and citizens came to our aid right away. Within 24 hours of the disaster, the Japanese government offered material and monetary aid that quickly surpassed $1 million; in addition to another $200,000 they donated to the American Red Cross to aid hurricane victims, according to the Times-Picayune. There was even a private Japanese businessman who showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Japan just days after Katrina to donate $1 million from his own pockets to storm relief. In total, Japan has given nearly $40 million to help areas affected by Katrina.

For those who know me, I make it no secret I am from New Orleans. Having suffered through the aftermath of Katrina, to again see such human suffering is devastating and leaves me with a sick feeling of déj? vu.

I also lived in Tokyo last year, while studying at Waseda University. I have great respect for the Japanese people, who were so kind and accommodating to me. It saddens me to hear what my friends abroad are going through. As the marketing chair for the Japanese American Student Alliance at GW, I am working tirelessly with my fellow e-board members to organize “Hope for Japan” events on campus.

The U.S. as a nation is generally good and giving in a crisis – no matter whom the crisis affects. There was a good line in the movie “Starman” that said, “Humans are at their best when things are at their worst.”

No matter your faith or belief, this is not the time to be passive.

Please don’t forget about Japan in a month, two months or even a year. The worst feeling after Katrina was being told we didn’t matter anymore because we weren’t on the news, or because the city would be hit by another hurricane.

The after-effects of the tsunami will be ongoing, and Japan will need our continued help. Six years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is rebounding thanks to the kindness and help of strangers from around the world. We can never thank them enough.

President Barack Obama said in a statement about the crisis: “The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakable.”

That’s especially true in moments like this one. The Americans and the Japanese are not only allies. We all love, laugh and embrace life equally. And now Japan needs our help. Even though we are students, I think it’s important for us, even if we don’t have much to give, to at least give something.

Please contact JASA for information on how to donate to the relief effort.

Richard Ashman a senior majoring in business administration, is the marketing chair for GW’s Japanese American Student Alliance.

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