SMU Dean Recalls Japanese Quake

North Texas man describes his account of surviving the earthquake

By Kim Fischer
|  Sunday, Mar 13, 2011  |  Updated 11:15 PM CDT
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After experiencing one of the worst disasters in history, a <a title=North Texas man returns home from Japan and shares his story." />

Kim Fischer

After experiencing one of the worst disasters in history, a North Texas man returns home from Japan and shares his story.

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A North Texas man arrived at DFW International Airport Sunday evening after experiencing what may be one of the worst disasters in Japan’s history.

Bill Tsutsui, the Dean of SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, was in Tokyo for a Japanese-American leader's conference when the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the island country.

As he sat in his den, Tsutsui said he was simply relieved to be a home.

“Thank goodness there’s nothing vibrating under my feet,” he said.

Just days ago, that wasn’t the case. Tsutsui’s group was arriving at their hotel in the heart of Tokyo when the earthquake began.

“The door to the bus opened and all of the sudden everything started to shake,” Tsutsui said.

At first, Tsutsui said they thought there was a mechanical issue with the bus.

“But then we looked outside and saw people running out of the hotel, first just a few, but then waves coming out,” he said.

With so many people rushing from the city, Tsutsui said communication and transportation shut down.

“The traffic was just gridlock for 12 hours,” he said.

Even with the chaos all around them, Tsutsui said they were still several hundred miles from the worst hit part of the country.

“None of us suspected how terrible the damage was up north,” he said.

As images of the damage done to Natori and Sendai started coming in to his hotel in Tokyo, Tsutsui was in shock at the damage done by the tsunami.

Sunday as he sat comfortably in his North Texas home, Tsutsui said he couldn’t help but feel a sense of guilt.

“I really felt I wish there was something more I could do, there’s a kind of helplessness that I could save myself but I hope it doesn’t get worse for them,” he said.

Tsutsui said he’s now actively trying to raise funds for the people of Japan.

Tsutsui said in his position at SMU, he studies the economy of different countries. He said Japan's government is even more in debt than the United States right now, so he believes rebuilding will be a huge issue in the near future.

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