Teacher comes home after surviving tsunami

David Schraffenberger
David Schraffenberger

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A local man who survived the tsunami in Japan spent more than a week trying to get home.

He is now happily back with his family.

David Schraffenberger lived on lots of rice and water from a spring near the small city of Miyako.

With no power and cell towers compromised, days went by before he could tell his family he was OK.

He started his journey home on a bus Saturday. And that led to two separate train rides and finally, two more plane flights, before landing home in Cincinnati Monday morning.

"It was basically, 'come home or we disown you,'" Schraffenberger joked about his family's message to him.

"See what I can do with myself, now that I've survived the end of the world," he said.

At 25-years-old, he said feels like he's been to the end of the world and back and with no idea what to do next.

"You've graduated from school, what do you do now?" he said. "Do you get a job at a call center or do you go somewhere interesting?"

He followed his call to teach English in far-off Japan.

And when the giant tsunami hit about ten miles away from his hillside school, he said you just never know where you're going to be, when disaster strikes.

"It was between classes," he laughed. "I was actually in a restroom at the time."

He said he could feel the earth shaking.

"Oh! Oh!," he exclaimed. "That's an earthquake no big deal, they have these on-occasion."

"I was standing at the time," he said. "I was in a safe place, so I finish up doing what I had to do and it was starting to shake really violently at that point."

He ran from the restroom and saw his students hiding under desks like a bomb drill, then they evacuated the building.

"And the town was torn in half," he said of Miyako. The massive wave ran right over the flood walls and slammed the town below.

"It goes over this huge wall as though it were not there," he motioned with his arms in a giant waving motion. "It doesn't break the wall, the wall still stands."

Schraffenberger was on a hill ten miles inland and completely safe from the waters that rushed onshore like a speeding train.

"It's a flash flood with the force of the ocean behind it," he said.

He was asked if he trusted the Japanese government's warnings about the radiation levels.

"The government, to an extent, it doesn't matter to them, if they're lying or not, because oh my God, we have a meltdown going on, we're gonna try as quietly as we can, as quickly as we can, to evacuate as many people from as close as we can," he said. "But we can't set the entire country into a panic because we just had a major natural disaster."

Schraffenberger said he was in such a rush to get out of the country, he forgot to leave the keys to his apartment, so he still has to send those back.

He was not able to share any of his own documentation of the disaster, which is a cell phone full of images, because he has no way to get them off of his phone. It's a Japanese cell phone and he is unable to make it work here in the US.

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