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MARCH 10, 2012 12:11PM

What happened to that woman? March 11, 2011

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 Fukushima. Fukushima. One year ago, that was one Japanese word that we all knew and we all knew how to pronounce. It was the beginning of a time that we thought might come someday, but that we all have dreaded looking at in our own futures. The dawn of nuclear energy was seemingly born in war and violence. We decided to harness the energy for more than war. We thought that it would provide cheap, safe, environmentally friendly energy with which to power our energy focused societies. 

Well, it seemed like a good idea. I think we all know that at it's heart, it was inherently dangerous. Dangerous in ways we thought we might control it and yet, we forgot, or better said, ignored that we are only we and mother nature is mother nature. We cannot control her. We are just fleas on the back of a giant leopard. We are nothing to the power of the earth around us. A lesson our ancestors knew and respected, but a lesson we seem bent on ignoring.

It is man's great prowess to control all things in his world. All that is weak bends under his strength and yet, nature, not so much. First an earthquake, then a tsunami, I picture her saying "Who's the bitch now?"

Many people lost their lives last year and are still struggling to rebuild a life. Some without the very livelihood that  once was. It is impossible to account for all the missing washed out to sea, impossible to forget thousands fleeing for their lives, just steps from the approaching sea.

It was an ordinary day. Just a beautiful, bright, sun shining day.

Ask yourself, is your reactor in your area on safe ground? It is placed on a fault? Can it be easily switched off, is it being properly maintained?



There was a woman. For twenty years a man ate in her little, simple restaurant. From the first day he arrived from the U.S. at his assignment as a nuclear technician, the person who brought him there, introduced him to the woman's restaurant. It was not far from his apartment. So eveyday, he ate at her restaurant.

Carl Pilliteri ate there all the time; the woman who ran it even invited him for Christmas one year. After he and his crew survived the quake he got into the exclusion zone and found it abandoned.


He sent a request to an English language newspaper,  The Japan Times and also some friends. He wanted to know what happened to this woman who had been such a part of his life in Japan. He did not even know her name. He did not even know the name of the restaurant. It was in Japanese and he could not read it. So he contacted a friend to help him find her restaurant. On a trip back he did locate the restaurant. It was locked up. It had survived but was in the zone, as was his apartment. He had been allowed to return.

The newspaper contacted him and did a story on it. Shortly after this was done it was reported to him that she was alive, but did not want to let out her personal information. You must give permission to have someone give out your address.


Carl was hoping for closure to all the horror he had witnessed and wanted to help this woman somehow. He knew after a subsequent visit to clean his aparment and retrieve his wedding ring, that the restaurant was still abandoned, only now instead of being locked up in the zone, it was open and now empty. 

He had hoped that he could muster up aid for Mrs. Owadasan (her name coutesy of the newspaper report, I am not sure of the spelling). It was then he also learned the name of her restaurant, it was IKOI, which meant rest, relax and relief. Ikoi  He wants to do more for her. He felt rest, relaxed and relief when he ate there. This place provided a fixture of familiarity in his life. He loved the chicken that she made.

He knew that many people were having difficulty starting over and he felt he could do something for this woman. 



He wants to keep one foot on the ground. After the nuclear accident he knew he was changed. He spoke to a therapist by phone more than once, and he knew he was differnt. He wanted to keep one foot on the ground at all times. He did not say this, but I think it was his way of wanting to be ready to run, to escape. In the darkness of the first reactor, the first one which later blew, he and his team were trapped. They had to feel their way and rescue themselves and a crane operator who was several feet up in the air. In that massive space, the normal sounds became terrible noises due to the unbalanced giant turbine. It was a hell. At one point he describes a Japanese co-worker putting his arm around his waist in the dark, to steady him and he putting his arm on his shoulder. He prayed aloud and asked why this day would be his last, here in this place.

They survived, but a four man team who passed him in the far parking lot up hill had been given an order to return to the turbine to that number one. They were probably told to shut it down. He remarks that as they passed, all dressed alike, all about the same size, all seemingly the same in a way, they looked up and acknowledged him. They went single file to the reactor, and moments later the water came. He has no idea what the fate of those men were, but he can quess. We can all guess. Fukushima.



 He gave this interview in an unwilling but willing sort of way. It was brave in a way, as many are silent on this. They are still working in the field, as he is too, but silent for many reasons. He wanted to be a public voice.

He is willing to be a public voice on this to help himself and his family. He is suffering a kind of post-traumatic stress. He is not at rest yet, it was not enough, he thought if he spoke to someone about it; shared it, the chronological order of telling it, it would help. It is not easy to tell.

Struggling through some of it, he thought that this was it, some of the closure he is trying to experience. 


People are the most important thing to him now. Recently he had observed two people who were walking their dogs that had an unfriendly exchange that seemed most unnecessary. It made him feel sad, and he wanted to tell them at some level not to waste their life doing this.

It struck him that he had been given a reset for his life. That reset is available to you and  me, through his experience with near death, catastrophe and escape. Like so many other people who witness monumental tragedy first hand and live to tell about it, it has profoundly affected his life. It can also change ours. We can live his confrontation with disaster through his story and imagine how we might feel and value our lives differently. 

He feels like he was reset, that he is a decent man, and the event a humbling experience, to be in that nuclear plant, and survive the incident. He is more in tune with his humanity and still struggling to be at peace.



When the earthquake shook northeast Japan last March, Carl Pillitteri was leading a team of technicians in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Pillitteri eventually led his team out of the building and retreated to a hillside where he saw the approaching tsunami slam about 100 feet from him. He was one of some 40 Americans working at the plant that day, and he spoke exclusively in this interview with Alex Chadwick, featured here as part of Salon’s partnership with the APM radio show, “The Story.” You can listen to the full audio interview here. It is also part of the radio documentary series “Burn: An Energy Journal.”  from Salon


Here is the podcast with the interview:


Since the March 11 disaster, nearly all of Japan's operating reactors have shut to refuel and may never restart. Several countries have questioned the safety of existing reactors and Germany has launched an ambitious plan to replace electricity from its nuclear fleet with renewable and other power sources.

"We believe nuclear power, in the long run, doesn't have any future," Johannes Kindler, vice chairman of a German regulatory agency, said at the IHS CERA energy conference in Houston this week. He said a decision to shut older German reactors was prompted by Fukushima safety concerns and cost issues.

"If you don't believe (nuclear) has a future, it's reasonable to get out as early as possible," Kindler said."


What is your state or county or country doing about it's nuclear reactors? Do you know?


Copyright 2012 by SheilaTGTG55


This report is based on information provided in a podcast and my own interpretation of the events described.

  "Your life is a do-over," says Billy Crystal in City Slickers. "You've got a clean slate."

Crystal is addressing his pal who, nearing 40, feels he is at a dead-end. "I've wasted my life." Brunno Kirby's character laments. Crystal tells him that he can start over again. His life can be a do-over."


A reset. 



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My God.
Your tone, and its resulting intimacy, renders the facts more horryfying than anything we saw on the news.

Great post... too bad the NRC recently issued its first permits for new construction of nuclear power plants in the US. What will we do with all that spent fuel and the irradiated scrap when we shut down the aging facilities we have here now?

Poor planning... makes for paradox and the endgame question, "Who will pick up the check?"
Wow. I was not aware of a lot of this. You made it personal. Thanks.
Jon: Thank you. The anniversary is coming and in this country we still act like it is some distant problem.

jmac: Thanks for your update. It is disturbing to me that Germany makes such progress changing how they will operate with nuclear energy and we just sit back and act stupid.
mypsyche: Yes, it is personal to each of us...
Thank you for this hopeful look at a this disaster.
rated with love
Romantic: Well, hope is an action word here I think. We have to get smart about trying to use nuclear power here in the US, so far, we have not been smart.
"It is placed on a fault?"

All of them are: the fault of man.
A year already ...but to the people who felt that earthquake and tsunami, I can imagine there is only the 'before' and 'after.' Thanks for sharing a unique perspective on this story and merging it with the personal idea of a reset -- for all of us.
mhold: You are absolutely right.

Scarlett: Yes, a year of days and nights to miss normal. To miss your own home, career, job, things you did and your loved ones. I would not be surprised it they did some kind of national day of mourning in Japan, but they need to move away from nuclear energy. They are sacrificing energy now, I read about how they are doing that. The thing is, they, like us, need to find safe replacements. Fracking and oil are not safe either. Fracking causes earth quakes, that was reported the other day. So inventors need to get on this, or we need to change how we live.

Tink: As always thank you for your visit and your support.
Thank you for this remembrance, Sheila. That such tragedies often happen on ordinary, calm, sunny days makes them even more poignant.
Fusun: Yes, we never know. There is only so much we can control and to think otherwise is more than foolish. That is why we cannot tempt our power against nature without first understand nature and ourselves. I think someone, somewhere should have thought about a nuclear plant on a fault line, or one planted next to the ocean and what might happen. I think that someone should realize that fracking is ruining ground water and now is found to be a cause of earth quakes. How do we stop the ignorant bend to unmanaged progress, especially where we should know better?
Excellent Points. The incident in Japan was a lot worse than reported and there will be situations a lot worse in the future, it's inevitable.
Thanks for this, Sheila.
I love the story of Carl Pilliteri ~ one of those reminders of the person-to-person relationships at the heart of any calamity. Too often we read headlines like '19000 DEAD' & the figures are more than we can process.
This story brings it closer.

Australia has no nuclear power ( we are Coal, Hydro, Gas,Wind & Solar in that order ~ which is ludicrous ~ in a country like this Solar should top that list ) BUT we sit on 60% of the world's uranium, & export it to India & China ( neither of whom signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ) & Japan, among others.

None of us are blameless. Advocating for Solar seems to be the way to ensure a safe environment for our grandkids.

Thanks again.
scanner: Thanks for reading. We do need to do something, to invent something or change what we consume, how we consume it. Could this be the dawn of another dark age? When intellect and power changes hands and somehow we abandon the masses?
Kim: Thanks for your visit. That is interesting that Australia does not use nuclear power. That makes me admire your country's efforts to use other methods and I do hope their solar energy efforts are increased and they can lead the world in how to use this proficiently. Interesting about the uranium too. Makes your country a player. Ah only time will tell what is what, and something tells me that time is coming soon.
Kim: Thanks for your visit. That is interesting that Australia does not use nuclear power. That makes me admire your country's efforts to use other methods and I do hope their solar energy efforts are increased and they can lead the world in how to use this proficiently. Interesting about the uranium too. Makes your country a player. Ah only time will tell what is what, and something tells me that time is coming soon.
There is a reactor very near me here in Pittsburgh, and the one in Maryland that shut down after the Virginia quake near me when I am in DC. The Maryland one has been allowed to restart with no fortifications or modifications at all. This one will poison the Chesapeake Bay if a big earthquake happens there. Big business doesn't care if it poisons the world. They are some dumb motherfuckers.
Wren: I agree with you. I have never seen this more clearly in my life than now, at this age. They own the government, or almost do and they care nothing about people and the environment. I wish I understood it all better, then I might know how to fight it. But how really do you fight greed, they are soul less.
So many great things about this piece, Sheila.

"It struck him that he had been given a reset for his life. That reset is available to you and me, through his experience with near death, catastrophe and escape. "

Wow, does that resonate.
fernsy: It is perspective, each day, perspective. I would love to tell you about a friend who drinks for pleasure, recently she decided that she needed more, her baby steps in politics didn't seem like much to me at first, until I realized where she was starting from, and what she was trying to do. I put her work into perspective and I ended up feeling hopeful for her efforts, instead of demeaning this little scoot into the national conversation....Perspective is a re-occurring element in our lives, if we chose to employ it.
There was a time when we were only addicted to oil, that went badly yet we chose to become addicted to nuclear energy. As I see it the problem is that we're not as smart, powerful or far seeing as we believe we are.

Outstanding piece. Too bad logic flies in the face of our silly belief system about ourselves. Heartbreaking as it will be, it will probably take a few more meltdowns for us to become realists.
l'Heure: Thank you for visiting and you are absolutely right. We have to fight to make the change before it is too late.
The tsunami was made up of much more than water...
Why isn't this a Cover? This is as rare and terrific a piece as I have read here.
Jon: Just not enough talent I guess, or no one read this who could affect that, and apparently Fukushima was just not a big enough story, as no one had anything up there about it...I felt close to this story as I had a person in Japan during it. I felt the pain.
Seer: Thank you for reading. We have not learned enough.
Beautifully told piece on a lethal subject. Thank you for raising awareness on the oft forgotten topic of nuclear energy. We have power plants in NJ operated by PSE&G. Too close for my comfort.
Erica: It has been shown that Fracking causes earthquakes, so beware, your power plant could be at risk.