We won’t forget South Whidbey | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
December 24, 2011 · Updated 10:16 AM
To the editor:
The Shirai Family of Fukishyma Prefecture, Japan wishes to thank the people of south Whidbey Island.
After the earthquake on March 11, we quickly left our home, each with a small bag of possessions, thinking we could go back later to collect the rest. We never expected the radiation fallout so were unable to return after our very quick exit.
We migrated to the south of Tokyo and found a small room to rent, about 8-by-10 feet. Ten of us slept there, lined up in sleeping bags on the floor, two of us slept in the front seat of our car, and one of us slept in a back yard. We used the public baths and lived like this for three months.
Luckily, we found a dental practice to take over and worked there, saving every penny we could to come to the U.S. We hoped to practice on a Native American Indian reservation but discovered, under current rules, we could not.
We made our way to South Whidbey instead, where we knew of a friend with a vacant house. Quickly, we went to work with two pro bono immigration lawyers who tried unsuccessfully to attain for us refugee status. As time ran out on our U.S. visas, most of our family left for New Zealand for renewed hope of a new home. A few of us stayed behind, as New Zealand would not accept our dog unless he was in the U.S. for six months.
There are not words enough to describe our love for the people of South Whidbey. The people reached out to us in ways we could never have imagined possible. The loving memories we have will be with us for the rest of our lives. We feel there cannot be another place in the world as warm, kind and loving as South Whidbey.
Until we met the people there, we were in trauma. For us, South Whidbey was a miracle. There we found a home and a community with compassion, understanding and support. Slowly the pain of our trauma eased up as we were no longer homeless.
We would like to thank some very special people: Jeff and Chris Williams for teaching us farming; Linda and Leonard Good of Island Strings for produce gifting, social networking and constant moral support; Sue Sibbald and Hiromi Nara for Japanese dinners and very stressful difficult daily bureaucracy work for months to allow our dog to enter New Zealand; Jill Campbell of Island Recycling for translation of legal papers and warm hospitality; Betty Azar for books and classes in English; Steve Shapiro of Island Athletic Club for showers; Mary Posz of Whidbey Telecom for a house telephone; Good Cheer Food Bank for nourishment; attorney Albert Gustafson for legal work; attorney Jessie Valentine for teaching us gardening; Amy Linds of Four Paws Only Pet Salon for our dog, Peeto; Eamonn Roache of Celtic Risers for frequent septic checks; George Rusch for expert car mechanical work; Joy Moulton of Alder Marsh Retreat for clothing; Ryan Porter of South Whidbey Rotary; Tom and Yoko MacInelley for house supplies; WICA for teaching us about Django music; Kay and M.C. Kang for teaching us lavender farming; Donna Rice and Karen and Jack Krug of Spoiled Dog Winery for delicious organic meats; and the Healthy Pet for doggie donations.
Thank you to Good Cheer for our sustenance and a wonderful garden party. We have never known a community garden before with such a loving, united compassion to feed those in need.
We are extremely grateful to Bill and Diane Watts for the use of their home. We are especially thankful to a most generous man and will never forget all he did for our family: Dr. David Parent saw us countless times over a five-month period in order to complete the complicated and lengthy requirements of paperwork for two governments, plus shots for Peeto, our beagle, to enter New Zealand. He said it would be nearly “impossible,” but he did it.
We love you, citizens of South Whidbey and will never forget all you have done for us. The world could learn a lot from the people of South Whidbey. We are now all gone, but have left our hearts on South Whidbey. We invite any of you to visit us if you should come to New Zealand.
THE SHIRAI FAMILY, YOSHI, YUKO, TAKAHIRO, KYOKO, ERICO, AND FRIENDS, KAORI SATO, SHOHEI KAWASAKI, YUI TSUKAHARA, TATSUMASA AIURA, JUNCO MUIRA AND KOSKA