San Fernando Valley : Kobe Children, Winnetka Students Share Quake Stories

Yuka Ogawa recalls the horror of watching her native Kobe, Japan, burn after the earthquake more than a year ago. Another child, Jonathan Rohde, says he "flashes" from time to time on his own nightmare: the Northridge earthquake.

Young survivors of those disasters are sharing their experiences this week as Japanese students visit with students of John A. Sutter Middle School in Winnetka.

After Kobe's earthquake, which occurred one year to the day after the Northridge quake, the two groups began writing back and forth about their experiences, said Carolyn Baker, the middle school's principal. Eventually, she said, the children decided they wanted to meet.

At their first meeting Thursday at the middle school, the children seemed shy. When they did begin to talk, they weren't talking earthquakes; they wanted to find out how the other children lived.

It's not clear whether the children have suffered long-term psychological effects from the disasters, said school officials and parents. Betty Seflin, a school psychologist, says children have methods to cope.

"They need to talk about it and even act it out," she said. "You see them playing games, often reviving what happened."

She cited as an example the children's nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosey," about widespread death from the bubonic plague.

Most of the children who experienced the Northridge earthquake seem to have recovered, Seflin said.

"They can go on with their lives," she said, "and they have gone on with their lives."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World