While taxiing to the end of the runway, maybe five minutes before full power would be applied and we would take off, the huge 747 began bouncing up and down, the wings flapping. It wasn’t nearly as bad as some mid-air turbulence I’ve experienced, but we weren’t in the air! There isn’t supposed to be turbulence on the ground!
The plane stopped moving forward, but the bouncing and shaking continued.
When the pilot came over the loudspeaker he said, “Folks, we’re having an earthquake. We’re going to sit right here for a while. I’ve been flying 31 years and there’s nothing in the manual about what to do when you’re trying to take off during an earthquake!”
A few minutes later, the pilot announced, “Folks, the control tower is abandoned. There’s no ground control. We’re not going to move the plane. We’ll just sit here a while.” A while stretched to almost four hours. Aftershocks occurred frequently each hour. Some were gentle, and some were almost as strong as the original earthquake.
“Now the terminal has been abandoned,” the pilot announced. “Even if we returned to the gate, there’s no ground personnel to operate the jetway and you don’t want to be in the terminal during these aftershocks.”
People around us were using their mobile phones to check news reports. We were keeping up with the increasing magnitude of the reported quake (first 6.6, then 8.1, then 8.9, and now 9.1). We heard about the tsunami hitting the east coast of Japan and the tsunami warnings across the Pacific.
Our mobile phones on the T-Mobile system (GSM system) don’t work on Japan’s cellular system. But Kay and I each have an Amazon Kindle with 3G world cell phone service for downloading books and also with very rudimentary web browsers. So, we fired up our Kindles. Kay posted on Facebook. I posted on Twitter and Facebook. I also sent emails to family and friends keeping them updated. Others’ mobile phones began to run out of battery, but our Kindles kept on working; Kindles have a tremendous battery life.
It wasn’t really until we landed in Detroit and saw the devastation on the airport monitors that we truly realized the magnitude of destruction. The text-only news reports on our Kindles told us the story, but the videos gave us the emotional impact of the destruction.
Our thoughts remain with the hundreds of thousands in Japan whose lives have been tremendously affected by these disasters and the continuing potential of a nuclear disaster also. The God of the universe is aware of every tear, of every heartache, not just from those who believe, but from pre-believers also. Our prayer is for their comfort, for their peace. But most of all, our prayer is for the Buddhist nation of Japan to experience the explosion of church growth that often follows a time of intense natural disaster. Mission Frontiers reports that 40% of church-planting breakthroughs among Muslim people groups followed some kind of natural disaster. May it be true in Buddhist Japan also.
(How did Keith and Kay make it safely back to the States? Read their original full story.)
Guest post from Keith Seabourn, Chief Technology Officer, Campus Crusade for Christ. I am located in Orlando, Florida, some days. I’m in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet many days. I enjoy exploring how to use the amazing communication technologies available today to help people connect with living truth.
NOTE: Thinking about getting a Kindle? Read these posts: