Heroism and Hope: 7 Heartwarming Tsunami Stories

Memorable moments of hope in the midst of disaster.

Amidst the horror and heartbreak of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami, some heartwarming stories have emerged of loyalty, love, and bravery. We saw it after 9/11, after Hurricane Katrina, after the 2005 tsunami, after the earthquake in Haiti, and we see it here. Despite the devastation, these people (and animals) remind us that heroism is not dead, love is a powerful motivator, hope is still alive, and people can be compassionate toward strangers.

  • Teacher saves 42 students in 8 minutes
    Robert Bailey heard a tremendous cracking noise and instinctively herded all 42 of his students to safety on a nearby hill before their school was destroyed.
  • Man swims through debris to find wife and mother
    Hideaki Akaiwa rushed home after the quake to find his neighborhood flooded. He donned scuba gear and swam to his house where his wife was trapped. He rescued her but his mother was not there. Four days later, he waded through neck-deep water and found her trapped on the second story of another house.
  • Man walks 20 hours to find girlfriend
    After the quake, teacher Zack Branham was anxious for news of his girlfriend who lived on a coastal town four miles away. It took him 20 hours to make his way down blocked roads to her town, slip past authorities, and check several locations before finally finding her safe.
  • Exchange student finds out family is alive over YouTube
    UC-Riverside student Akiko Kosako was unable to communicate with her family in Japan after the quake. After several days, a friend alerted her to a YouTube video showing her older sister holding up a sign that said they were all safe.
  • CNN reunites son with Michigan family
    Soledad O’Brien reunited Paul Fales with his parents in Michigan over the phone on the air.
  • Dog guards injured friend
    Seeing this dog stand by his friend despite all the chaos is like a scene out of a Disney movie. But not hokey.
  • Anonymous donors are heroes, too
    Jon Friedman makes a good point. Celebrity donors publicly giving millions of dollars are a tremendous help, but isn’t true generosity the kind that you do without fanfare, without an expectation of thanks, and when you don’t have much, if anything to spare? Each time someone donates even $10 that they could really use in these hard economic times, they are an unsung hero. If you want to release your inner hero, see Stephanie Roger’s piece on 11 Ways You Can Help From Your House.

Image: Jesslee Cuizon

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.