Chicago mother anxious as son in Japan considers next step

March 14, 2011 4:08:55 PM PDT
Families have been torn apart by the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands in Japan.

Thousands of people are still missing. Many people are searching for their missing loves ones.

Edgewater resident Johanne Tohei prayed at the Buddhist shrine set up in her home Monday for the safety of her son and others.

Her only son, 35-year-old Akki Tohei, has been teaching at a Catholic High School for the past 14 years in Fukushima City, one of the areas hardest hit near the nuclear reactors. Mother and son have been e-mailing back and fourth.

"That first e-mail from him was a great relief and I was able to breathe. His first concern was the safety and well being of his students, so he stayed at school for a couple of days. He finally got back to his apartment and now is trying to sort through whether or not to evacuate," Tohei told ABC7.

Tohei watches Japanese television for more information on the earthquake aftermath and hopes her son makes the right decision about what to.

"I want him to really think things through and weigh all the options," said Tohei. "On the other hand, I want him to evacuate to be safe and to go to the area which is Yamagata where we have many friends.

Tohei is also concerned about the gravesite of her late husband, Akira, on top of a mountain in Yamagata.

"In previous earthquakes, there were some tombstones and other rocks that had tumbled in that area," said Tohei.

Right now, her only way to communicate with her son is trough the Internet where she learns about the devastation.

"Still no water, but we can getting it at evac centers. I got water from the supermarket. Aftershocks happen all the time, but you get used to them, which may not be a good thing. I'm at home now, but with news about the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, I'm a bit wary of staying here," she said, reading an email from her son.

Tohei was planning to return to Japan in a couple of months for a memorial service for her late husband. Now everything is on hold unit it is determined if it is safe enough to travel to Yamagata.

The mother says the past two days have been such an emotional roller coaster that it is hard to process anything right now.