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Hallettsville High senior shares experience of devastation-ridden Japan

By JR Ortega
March 25, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2011 at 10:25 p.m.

Megan Kostelnik, 18, a senior at Halletsville High School, arrived in Japan for  spring break to visit her cousin the day before the earthquake struck.  Although she was 300 miles from ground zero at the Atsugi military base, she still felt the quake and aftershocks at levels as high as 6.0.

DAMAGE in japan

As of Friday:

At least 10,102 people have been confirmed dead

At least 17,053 have been reported missing

SOURCE: National Police Agency of Japan's emergency disaster countermeasure headquarters

HALLETTSVILLE - An earthquake halfway across the world shook the parents of Megan Kostelnik wide awake in the middle of the night.

The day was March 11 and their 18-year-old daughter had just called to tell them she was OK, but had just experienced the worst earthquake in recorded history to hit Japan.

"I had never even thought I'd experience an earthquake," their daughter said, now back home with family.

Fortunately, their only daughter was about 300 miles away from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake's epicenter.

The Hallettsville High School senior had gone to visit her cousin in Japan for vacation during spring break.

On the day of the earthquake, Kostelnik and her cousin's family ran outside of their home at the Atsugi military base in the Kanagawa prefecture.

Pictures fell from walls as they evacuated outside the structure and an antennae across the street and power lines swayed.

The feeling of the earthquake was much like being on a rocking boat, she said.

The quake in their area registered as a 6.0 on the Richter scale.

"It was pretty scary," she said. "I thought I was going to die."

Though Kostelnik did not see any of the devastation, they did experience rolling blackouts and numerous aftershocks.

Kostelnik also had to have an emergency appendectomy days after the earthquake.

The doctors and nurses at the hospital had a limited command of English, but through technology, Kostelnik was able to get past the language barrier.

The day she was discharged, a warning had been given to stay indoors because of radiation worries.

When all was safe, she headed to the airport and, before flying out, felt another aftershock, not to mention traffic so heavy that they had to leave five to seven hours early to travel to an airport only two hours away.

Though Kostelnik and her family in Japan did not experience first-hand the devastation, its effects were truly felt.

Several families at the military base had trouble locating families, but as far as Kostelnik knew, all had been eventually reached and were fine.

The experience is one Kostelnik would never trade, she said.

Kostelnik's mother, Theresa, feels her daughter's heavy involvement in her school as student council president, as well as other leadership roles in school and community organizations, was enough to have her not worry much.

"She winged that on her own," her mother said.

Kostelnik plans to visit Japan again and is confident its people will rebuild not only their country, but their lives.

"Although I faced many personal challenges while I was in Japan, it does not compare to the challenges faced by the people affected by the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami," she said.

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