When the tide rolled back onto the shores of Miyagi province after the tsunami, it brought a thousand of the dead home. The authorities will be counting them for weeks. Entire towns are floating down into the unquiet darkness of the ocean floor, where ancient stones tremble with echoes of a restless power that shifted the very axis of the Earth by several inches. The shores of Japan moved eight feet in the quake, opening ten thousand watery graves.
Technicians struggle to control a series of mighty nuclear engines, where the supreme achievement of human science managed to capture a faint echo of the rising sun’s power. The steel and concrete walls of its prison cracked during the quake. Tsunami water has corrupted emergency cooling systems. Reports of reassurance and impending disaster chased each other throughout the weekend. Anxious residents of the Fukushima area, and residents around the world, cringe with the sound of each new hydrogen gas explosion.
Images from the tragedy have burned themselves into the memory of mankind: A father braves the bitter morning wind wrapped in a blanket, hoping to find food for the baby cradled in his arms. A mother speaks of reaching sanctuary at the top of a building, only to feel her daughter’s hand slip from her grasp as the tsunami carries her away. People gather on a rooftop to watch the ocean devour their homes and businesses. Satellites look down upon the ruins of cities, raked by the claws of the hungry sea.
The great infrastructure of an advanced nation was swept aside like so many cobwebs, leaving millions to huddle in the cold without food, water, or electricity. In towns that have been erased from the map, the authorities are running out of body bags. Careful training and preparation have saved many lives, but no amount of preparation could hold a disaster of this magnitude completely at bay.
What power has Man, to compare with this incredible destruction? Can we move islands, or tilt the Earth?
Our power is slower than the wrath of the Earth, which can send waves crashing through the streets of our cities, or blast molten rock into the sky from volcanoes… but it is a great power nonetheless, beyond the dreams of our ancestors only a few generations in the past. You will see that power on display in the days and weeks to come.
It is a power that comes from faith and courage, surging through the muscles of rescue workers tearing into rubble with hammers and chainsaws. It flows from the genius that put the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to sea, bringing the resources of a small city to the aid of Japanese forces with astonishing speed. It can be seen in the quiet discipline of people facing unspeakable tragedy without panic or looting.
The strength of the human heart can be seen in how quickly the wheels of our history spin. Less than a century ago, the American and Japanese navies sent their carriers to visit destruction on each other. Japan built a brutal empire upon the bones of conquered foes. Now we work side-by-side with the good people of this industrious nation, brothers in arms against the Last Enemy.
Our power grows from the human reverence for nature, which has not been lost through decades of dizzying progress, or the cynical posturing of those who would undo that progress to gain political power. Scientists around the world will learn from the events of this terrible weekend. We already know how to build nuclear reactors less vulnerable to catastrophe than the 40-year-old plants at Fukushima. We will add to our store of knowledge, in keeping with our curiosity and compassionate desire to improve our quality of life.
The men and women of the 21st century will not condemn their children to live in fear and darkness, huddled in caves and hovels far from the sea. The tide will come back into Miyagi one day soon, to roll beneath the hulls of fishing boats, and break gently upon the edge of cities made luminous against the approaching night. In those freshly rebuilt and painted streets, among the somber memorials to the dead and the joyous constructions of the living, you will see the irrefutable proof that the human race gets better. That is our power. Measure this tragedy not by those who died, but by those who lived.
If you would like to contribute to relief efforts in Japan, Fox News has compiled a list of charities and relief agencies, which you can view by clicking here.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter