Friends and family were relieved to hear news over the weekend from two UAB graduates teaching English in Hitachi, Birmingham’s sister city in Japan.
Family and colleagues contributed to an e-mail chain, circulated by Scotty Colson, director of the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission. The aim of the e-mail was to gather as much information as possible about the fate of the city and its inhabitants. Over the weekend, e-mails revealed that the teachers, Jillian Albright and Brian Stoney, were both safe and well and able to reach out to their loved ones in the United States. Hitachi, in Ibaraki Prefecture, was badly damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, but not as heavily as other reported areas. The area is still enduring aftershocks.
On Facebook, Stoney, who graduated from UAB in 2006 with a degree in English and history, wrote about his and his girlfriend’s status: “Hey everyone! Thank you for your love and kind messages! Mie and I are safe. All power and water are out.”
Albright, who graduated in 2010 with an international studies degree, and minors in Japanese and history, reported that power had been restored, then lost periodically due to rolling power outages. In an e-mail to Colson on Sunday, Albright said she spent some time waiting in lines for more food, but that she and friends hopefully had water to last until service was restored, even though one friend “walked all the way to Tokyo the other day just for hot water,” she wrote in the e-mail.
In the e-mail chain, Shuichi Moriyama, teacher consultant for the Hitachi Municipal Board of Education, wrote: “That earthquake caused miserable damages in east of Japan. We are helping evacuees in Hitachi City. We have shortage of water and food, but many people are trying to help us.” Damaged roadways are contributing to shortages, according to people in the area.
“We are very glad our two UAB grads teaching in Hitachi are OK,” Colson says. “We have heard from many friends in Hitachi who are well. Hitachi suffered extreme damage from waves and tremors and we will be doing a fundraiser for them in conjunction with JASA (The Japan America Society of Alabama). We hope everyone will join us on this and our continuing prayers for our friends in Japan.”