CORAL SPRINGS (CBS4) – Her apartment was destroyed. Her job, on hold. The country she had traveled to on a teaching assignment is no longer safe. Sunday, Coral Springs teacher Stephanie Lombard came home, bringing with her memories of disaster and survival.
“Its good to be home,” she said.. “I don’t know how I feel. Like I feel happy that I’m home, but I also feel kind of like heartbroken that I’m leaving.
The 24 year old was greeted by cheerful and tearful relatives at Miami International Airport Sunday evening. It was the end of a very long journey for Lombard, eight days on foot and by train to get to an airplane to fly home.
“It was really hard to take the train because there was no trains or buses running for six days,” she said. “There was still tons of aftershocks that were happening. So every time an aftershock happened the trains would just stop. So sometimes we’d be stuck on the bullet trains for an hour or so.”
Lombard was teaching English at a school in Koriyama, west of the epicenter of the quake.
“It literally felt like someone just yanked the ground from under you like that’s the initial jolt like someone just pulls the ground.. so it was awful,” she recalled.
At the time she was responsible for students in the three year old group, and she struggled to protect them during the violent rumbles that began to tear the roof of the school apart.
“They were all terrified and crying and screaming,” said Lombard. “It was more scary for me to see the kids that way.”
After things settled down Lombard said she was able to make her way to her apartment where everything was destroyed. She returned to Miami without any luggage but grateful for her life.
After more than a week of eating rice balls and water, Lombard was eager to return to the comforts of home.
“I’m excited to sleep in my bed and eat a lot of food,” she said smiling. “As simple as that sounds that’s what I’m excited for.”
After recuperating, Lombard said she will begin fund raising efforts to try and get help to those she left behind in Japan.