A handful of local parents can rest easy now that 43 students from Richmond Hill’s Holy Trinity School have returned home safely from Japan. The teens, accompanied by four teachers, were in flight when the Asian country was ravaged by a monstrous 8.9 earthquake.
Liz Robinson, a communications co-ordinator at Holy Trinity, said school officials were in constant contact with parents once news of the natural disaster — followed by a tsunami and fears of a nuclear meltdown — broke.
Their plane was about 40 minutes out from Tokyo (about 375 kilometres from the epicentre) when the earthquake struck. As a result, it was redirected to a military base where the students and teachers were kept on the tarmac for a couple of hours. They spent the night in Sapporo before flying to Narita.
The trip, planned as a 10-day arts and culture tour over the March Break, was two years in the making. Their itinerary included stops in Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima to check out monuments, museums and temples.
The students, in grades nine through 12, had some opportunity to explore Tokyo, where they visited a market, temple and sang karaoke.
“They were very tired the whole time, but they were in good spirits,” Robinson said. “They all were just basically concerned about what was happening around them, and for the people who have been affected directly by the devastation.”
The only visible indications of the natural disaster that had taken place at the stops on their trip were a few cracks in the sidewalks. They also think they may have felt some of the aftershocks. The students only stayed in Japan for four days.
“They all arrived home … just happy to be home and reunited with their families,” said Robinson. Dimitri Kaklamanos, a music teacher who was on the trip, said that in light of what had happened, he’s grateful that everything worked out okay.
“We were just happy to return 43 students to their parents safe as promised,” he said. Students have already started to discuss the idea of a fundraiser to help Japan as it grapples with the devastating fallout of the back-to-back natural disasters.
“That’s one of the first things the kids were talking about when they got off the plane,” Robinson said.
It is expected that Japan’s death toll will climb to exceed 10,000. At press time, the country was still fighting the potential meltdown of a nuclear reactor located in Fukushima.