Quake forces quick departure to Philadelphia

    Mike Plugh remembers what it was like when the earthquake hit his town in the Akita Prefecture of northwest Japan. “In the afternoon I was at home and I was sitting on my couch and my wife was upstairs at the time,” said Plugh. He says they were sort of used to small quakes. “The whole house was shaking and it lasted for about five minutes,” he said. “I turned on the television and the man on the television looked a little pale. And as soon as he started describing it, the power went out.” Plugh and his wife, Ari, went into immediate “disaster-prep mode.” They filled the tub with water and searched the house for canned goods. They picked up their two kids from day care and hunkered down. They were 150 miles from the failing reactor in Fukushima. “While I trust the science, and I believe in the science, I also don’t want to take any risk, even if it’s infinitesimally small, with my children while I have another option,” he said.  Plugh had just started on his doctorate at Temple University here in Philadelphia. The plan had been to split his time, half and half, between the two places. But all plans were off now, so the family loaded into a plane and headed to Philly. Plugh’s mother lives in the area, and he used too, back in the ‘90s. He said the family is adjusting well to the sudden relocation. “We’re really an international family. We have extended family in both places and a lot of love for each others’ countries,” he said. “Our children are the product of two different cultures and we want to keep those strong connections. That’s how it is now, and we hope that’s how it always continues.” If it sounds like Plugh seems really calm about all this, well, it’s because he is. He says he’s inspired by Japan’s long history of dealing with disaster and rebuilding. Back in Japan, Plugh’s wife has a job to return to and his children have a life there, too. But until he can be sure they’ll be safe there, Plugh says, they’re not going anywhere.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.