Tsunami survivor to visit campus

Seietsu Sato lost his wife in Japan’s tsunami and earthquake in April 2011 while he was working as assistant fire chief. On Thursday, he is coming to Baylor to tell his story.

Sato is speaking at 4 p.m. in 147 Draper. His speech is sponsored by Linda and Kenji Hasegawa and supported by the Baylor University diversity enrichment grant and department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

When Sato lost his wife, he was directing teams of firefighters to put out the massive fire that was taking over the city of Kesennuma. He was notified that his wife was missing but could not leave his team to search for her. Sato was notified two days later that she did not survive.

“After the tragedy, he struggled with guilt for surviving,” according to the department of Modern Languages and Cultures website. “At the same time, he felt fortunate that, although his wife did not survive, he was able to recover her body, as thousands of people were never found.”

Sato now devotes his time to the reconstruction effort in Japan. The 2011 earthquake was the most powerful one to hit Japan, and effects of the disaster took more than 15,000 lives, according to the Japanese National Policing Agency. The World’s Bank estimated the damage cost $235 billion, which made it the costliest natural disaster in world history.

The Baylor in Japan program began helping with the reconstruction efforts in 2012. Yuko Prefume, program director and senior lecturer in Japanese said she did not plan for the program to go there but knew someone who was in the area that was devastated. It is a six-week program in the summer that Baylor offers.

“I think many people living overseas, including myself, felt helpless, and many of us wanted to do something,” said Prefume. “But if you don’t go there when there is a big disaster you don’t really know what it is like.”

Prefume got in contact with a non-profit in the area, and the program spent three days visiting schools and nurseries. The students brought picture-books for the children and schools, and read to the children as well.

“The most powerful take away for me was getting to meet people because you hear about it and see it on the news, but we actually got to experience the city and meet people,” Richardson senior Grace Nelson said. “Pretty much everyone we met had lost someone to the tsunami.”