As we literally pick up the pieces here at HLJ, we're all counting our blessings. None of our staff or their families were hurt in the quake. Our building is undamaged structurally. Its contents just got scrambled.
Calling a natural catastrophe of this scale the "Sendai" Earthquake seems odd. I suppose it needs a name, of course, but Sendai is just the closest major city. Essentially, the entire eastern seaboard of Japan, a 500km stretch, is reeling. It sort of feels like calling all of World War II the "Germany War."
The quake started small, as they usually do. We'd had a few little ones in recent days here, so I didn't even think to end the phone call I was on. As it slowly grew in strength, I eventually mentioned it to the person I was speaking with. "Yeah, I can hear some weird noises coming from over there," they offered. As it continued to grow in power, things around my desk started to jump about, and I finally hung up the phone with a quick "call you back."
The big Bandai Saturn V model on the credenza behind my desk was doing a dangerous dance by now, so I stood up to hold it until the quake subsided. But there was no subsiding! It just kept growing in power and violence. Across the room I noticed that our big 55" plasma TV was sliding back and forth 40cm at a time across its stand. The noise caused by thousands of normally immobile items straining and moving was astounding, and I couldn't believe the windows in my office weren't shattering. I turned around to look out, but my view was now blocked by my office bookshelf, a big, heavy, two-meter tall thing normally standing immediately behind me.
It had fallen and landed directly on my desk chair, just 30cm behind where I was now standing...er, surfing (to even stay up at this point, I had my feet a meter apart both hands gripping heavy furniture). Had I not stood up to save my Saturn V, I probably would have broken the bookcase's fall with my head.
Displaying far more common sense than their boss, almost all of HLJ's employees were out in the parking lot. I'm told they witnessed cars literally bouncing down the road as they drove by. I'm not sure why my brain never kicked in with "run, Scott, run!" In fact, the whole time my office was kicking around, I literally had no emotion. I just sort of stared at the unfolding chaos in a mentally blank state. The huge adrenalin surge didn't hit until after it had stopped.
The damn thing lasted for three to four minutes, an eternity when you can barely stand and you have possessions and plaster dust raining down around you. Even after it finally came to a rest, the respite was brief. Strong aftershocks starting happening within minutes, and are continuing even as I write these words. They get old really fast.
Probably 30-40% of our inventory ended up on the floor. A chunk of it is definitely destined for the "Scratch & Dent" department. Most of Saturday was spent picking that up, and Sunday we are scanning every item on our shelves to reset the location data that makes it possible for us to do our jobs. It looks like we'll be able to be back in business almost as normal by Monday, but we have no information yet about how disrupted international shipments will be. In addition, the crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power plants is causing an electrical shortfall, and we may be subjected to rolling blackouts. We'll update our site when we get relevant information.
So as you can see, compared to the millions of people on Japan's eastern shore (we're about 100km inland) who've suffered entire towns being washed away, thousands of their loved ones killed or missing, or nuclear power plants threatening to spew radiation, HLJ and its staff are in pristine condition. We're incredibly thankful and moved by all the notes of concern and well-wishes that you've sent by email and Twitter! But the people in the coastal regions of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaragi, Fukushima and others need your help and concern at this time much more than we do.