One year ago today, I happened to catch the news before I left for class, and I was shocked at what I saw. I saw that a huge earthquake and tsunami had hit Japan, the country I have a strong heart for and want to see more than anywhere else in the world, and all I could think was, "I hope my friends in Japan are OK..."

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan. The disasters took the lives of over 19,000 Japanese people, destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and brought about one of the worst nuclear crises since Chernobyl, when the Fukushima plant was hit and the surrounding areas were heavily contaminated with radiation. Now, Japan is still trying to rebuild and pick up the pieces.

This news had a devastating effect on me and the other students who took Japanese at Texas Tech, not to mention our Japanese instructors. We were all worried about our teachers' families, friends and hometowns, and we wanted to do something to help. I find it interesting how a disaster like this tends to bring out the best in people.

The thing I remember the most about this time was how the students in the Japanese classes rallied together to raise money for the tsunami victims. We had a booth set up everyday for several weeks outside the library, asking for donations for the victims. We put together a big event on campus, Japanese Awareness Day, with food and performers, and had a great turn out. It was a fantastic display of support and love for the people of Japan, and I was glad to be a part of it. My only regret is that I didn't do more to help with the effort.

Today, my heart goes out to the people of Japan who are still struggling with the aftermath of these disasters. It's my prayer today that these people stay strong, and have the strength to rebuild their country, and their lives.