FAU Professor stranded on train during Japanese earthquake

Dr. Osgood felt the train rock 'like a boat'

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Some South Florida residents found themselves caught right in the middle of the calamity in Japan. An FAU history professor and his wife experienced one of the worst natural disasters in history when the massive quake struck.

Dr. Ken Osgood teaches in Palm Beach County; however, he’s in Massachusetts right now, working as a visiting professor. On Friday, he and his wife, Rachel, were on a bullet train outside of Tokyo when everything came to a stop.

"The train starts rocking and it feels like a boat on the tracks," said Dr. Osgood.

Dr. Osgood and his wife didn't know what was happening.

"When you look out the window, it just looked like our train was rocking,” he said, “like a really strong wind was blowing a car on the freeway."

Dr. Osgood wouldn't learn until later they were in the middle of a catastrophic earthquake. Even the images on TV seemed surreal.

"It's one of those weird things where you're seeing it on the screen and the announcer is talking in a language you don't understand,” he said. “We still had a difficult time comprehending the magnitude of this thing."

With no power for hours, they were stuck on the tracks. Finally, their train arrived in Tokyo, but with no running transportation, they wandered the city for two hours before finally finding a hotel lobby to sleep in. It was shelter from the street, but no refuge from more than 50 aftershocks.

"We were in the 7th floor of a hotel so we definitely experienced them,” he explained. “At one point, while I was taking a shower, my wife saw the whole room shake and was deeply panicked by the whole thing."

What would panic them most was learning radiation was leaking from one of Japan’s nuclear reactors.

"That sent my heart rate soaring,” Osgood admitted. “Both my wife and I nearly went into a panic. We said, "We've got to get the hell out of here."

To move away from the nuclear reactor, they'd have to travel south. Heading north meant moving closer to it; however, it was their only way to get to the airport. Amazingly, 24 hours after the quake struck, they were on a flight back to the United States.

"We didn't breathe a sigh of relief until we felt the wheels come off the ground and everyone on the plane cheered and clapped," he said.

All they wanted now was to get home to their two young children, who were staying with his parents.

"The only thing we could think about was our kids,” Osgood said. “There were moments when each of us thought we might not see them again."

At the airport, they rushed to greet them.

“They must have thought we were nuts because we came in through security bawling our eyes out and held them tight like they were going to blow away," he said.

The Osgoods say they’re thankful for the Japanese people who were so kind to them. Some actually apologized for what was going on in their country. "

While they were in Tokyo, the Osgoods said they took out as much money as they could from an ATM machine to make sure they’d be able to get back to the U.S.

He said they donated all the money they didn’t use to the Red Cross relief efforts. He’s encouraging everyone to help the people of Japan, too.
 

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