On Sunday we will mark the first anniversary of the terrible disaster that shook an island, surged an ocean and cracked a reactor in the Tohoku region of Japan. As we remember the nearly 16,000 lives that were lost and the 3,000 still missing, we also honor the Japanese people, who over the past year have reminded the world that the human spirit is as formidable as the forces of nature, particularly when we join together in trying times.
I had the privilege of visiting Japan five months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The survivors I met in Natori and Sendai made clear to me that the disaster met its match in the resilience and fortitude of the Japanese people. While struck by the scale of the devastation, I also witnessed remarkable and inspiring progress in rebuilding homes, schools, and workplaces.
The American people were proud and honored to assist Japan, just as Japan has done for countless others around the world, in their times of need. Within hours of the disaster, we launched an unprecedented civilian and military relief effort – Operation Tomodachi. In Sendai, I visited an airport that had been flooded and later became a home to more than 1,000 weary survivors with nowhere else to go. A week after the tsunami, Japanese and American forces reopened a runway, allowing the arrival of hundreds of relief workers and more than two million tons of humanitarian supplies.
We are proud to have continued our support over the past year. As Japan rebuilds, America will stand with them as long as it takes. We join the Japanese people today in honoring the memories of those lost as they continue to work for a better future.