FORT LAUDERDALE – (CBS4) - Three days after a devastating earthquake struck Japan, one South Florida teacher living and working in Japan recounted the distressing details of her survival and the fear she felt as the earth shook beneath her.
Stephanie Lombard, 24, was raised in Coral Springs and traveled to Japan in June to teach English.
On Monday, she spoke to CBS4’s Joan Murray through Skype from the city of Kitakata.
“At first, it started off as normal as a quake could get,” Lombard said. “And suddenly it got extremely violent. We knew we had to seek shelter. We were lying down in between the doorways. Books were flying and windows were being cracked and blown out. Everyone was screaming – it felt like you were on a roller coaster with no seatbelt.”
She described the horror of not knowing what would happen next.
“There’s not much you can think about, but just praying to God that it’s going to stop. It’s a fear of your life and what’s going to happen next,” she said.
Lombard said the school where she taught at had students who ranged in age from infants to teens in Koriyama. She has since evacuated 40 miles away inland to Kitakata.
She still doesn’t know if all her students have been accounted for.
“I still don’t know if they’re safe or not and I’m anxious to find out if they were safe and unharmed,” she said.
Once the aftershocks cleared and she felt safe enough, Lombard returned to her apartment where she dug through the wreckage to find her passport and clothes.
“I went to my apartment and I couldn’t believe what it looked like,” she said. “It was scary. Everything that could be broken was broken.”
Lombard says that for now she is safe living with friends where she has access to food, water, electricity and even Internet.
“It’s great to be able to communicate with family back home, which is a blessing,” she said.
She said she still doesn’t feel completely safe. She moves through the city by instinct.
“I definitely would feel safer back at home,” she said. “Getting to an airport is almost out of the question.”
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