GOSHEN — On Sunday morning, Marc Ruhling finally got his luggage back. He flew into South Bend Saturday night, returning from a business trip to Tokyo without it.
On Wednesday, while still in Tokyo, the Goshen resident says he began feeling little tremors and the start of minor earthquakes.
“And then Thursday morning I got up to a few aftershocks from that earthquake,” Ruhling said. “Made it to the airport Friday, and that's when the major one hit. I was standing in line at the security check point, just before going through the gates.”
At that point he estimates there were 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Tokyo airport when the quake hit.
“It started,” he said. “You heard the windows start to shake a little bit. You notice exit signs swaying back and forth a little bit. It just gradually started shaking more and more and got to the point where you could not stand in one spot, you had to hold your balance and you couldn't walk. There were people that were actually stumbling.”
At that point, he says, Japanese police closed the airport for safety reasons. All passengers were taken outside. They waited for nearly three hours before they were let back inside. That's when flight cancellations began.
A short time later, passengers were given water and crackers, and later sleeping bags were handed out for an overnight stay in the airport.
“At that time only the first floor was open,” Ruhling said. “People were sleeping everywhere, there was about an eight to ten-foot-wide strip down the middle where you could walk but that was about it. It was wall-to-wall people.”
Hardships, he says, that were nothing compared to what many in Japan had to go through.