In this final installment of my five-part interview with Virginia Task Force 1’s Capt. Joe Knerr and Lt. Rodney Vaughan, the two veteran rescuers reflect on the resiliency of the people of Japan, the lessons they’ve learned along the way and how their experiences in Japan compare with other disasters to which they have responded.
Cooper: A lot of people have been remarking about how the Japanese people were dealing with this situation, as compared to others. Haiti obviously is a country that does not have a lot of things going for it. It doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure; doesn’t have a stable government, and has had a lot of problems.
Whereas Japan has the longest monarchy on the planet, but a lot of people are marveling at the fact that there was no sort of panic, disruption, and a lot of people are puzzled: “Why aren’t they rioting?” Did you see a lot this where you were at, this sort of Asian or in this case, Japanese culture of resilience where people were in line for water, they weren’t pushing and shoving each other. They were waiting their turn at grocery stores with no panic buying or looting. Did you see this firsthand?
Capt. Knerr: I was impressed by their response, and I am not talking about the emergency response. We only had a limited focus obviously because of where we were, but they are very… I wouldn’t say proud, they have a proud heritage I guess, so, very orderly.
It was overwhelming to us at times because they were bringing us things, whether it be, “Hey we want to give you, you know, some prepared food of some sort.” They are the ones with the disaster but yet are providing for us. They were very thankful for everything that we’ve done even though, you know, we were in our mind, unable to provide a live rescue. They were thankful that we were there, very appreciative. I don’t even know the proper term. You didn’t have the crime that typically would follow a disaster in most areas, the looting or whatever was not near us where we were in. Everybody was milling about and helping each other out. I was impressed.