|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Visiting Fukushima in August, Secretary-General Says, ‘We Came to Offer Support,
but in the End, We Took More Than We Gave; We Took Inspiration’
Following are the remarks of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Mainichi Shimbun Exhibition on the Great East Japan Earthquake, in New York, 20 October:
I remember the morning of March 11 — waking to news of the devastation. I immediately sent a message of support to the Japanese people. I told them they were not alone. The world stood in solidarity with Japan. We mourned their deaths. We prayed for the recovery of the survivors — and the nation. Japan, the country that had done so much for our world, needed the world at that terrible hour.
These photographs show the enormity of the tragedy. The houses, cars and planes swept away by waves. People’s belongings scattered for miles, families torn, lives in splinters. I could not believe the scope of devastation I saw for myself when I was in Fukushima. But these pictures gave me again a vivid reminder of my visit to Fukushima and affected areas. Gymnasiums that students should be using for sport, for play, transformed into morgues. A mother identifying the remains of her son.
A country already in shock suddenly thrust into a nuclear nightmare. People worried about the effects of the radiation. They didn’t know whether their food was safe to eat, whether their water was clean to drink. They dealt with fear and uncertainty about the overall threat. It was almost too much to bear.
But “almost” is the key word here. Because people in the land of the rising sun rose up. They united in painful mourning but they also united in taking practical steps to recover.
These photographs show that in the midst of this tragedy, there is a story of hope: students carrying a basketball hoop to a park so they can play again, American troops lending a hand, citizens of other countries doing their part, and a sign going up: “Gambarou Ishinomaki.”
Hang in there, Ishimaki. That was the message I brought to Fukushima in August. My wife and I met with officials and evacuees. We spoke to senior officials and schoolchildren. We came to offer our support, but in the end, we took more than we gave. We took inspiration.
The Japanese people had done so much to rebuild and even to reach out. They were looking beyond the borders of their own battered country. They were saying to me — and through me to the world — “no one else should ever suffer what we just endured.” I took this cry from the heart very seriously. I brought their concerns to the United Nations and to my meetings with leaders around the world.
We are working hard to learn as much as we can about the Fukushima disaster so we can protect other people in the future. I am deeply grateful to Mainichi Shimbun for showing us both sides of this experience: the fear — and the courage; the damage — and the determination; the impact on Japan — and Japan’s example for the world.
These images are seared in my heart.
Nihon wa kanarazu tachiagaru to kakushin shite imasu.
[I firmly believe that Japan will recover.]
Chikara wo awasete gambatte kudasai.
[Please work together to do your best.]
Kokuren mo sekai mo ouen shite imasu.
[The United Nations and the world are behind you in this.]
[Thank you very much.]
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