Before I start I want to say how much I hate blogs and I have never written one before. And I might never write one again. But this is by far the most blog-worthy experience I've ever had.
If you ever look at the news, you have probably read about the killing spree that happened in Tokyo on June 8th. A crazed man decided that he wanted to kill people....anyone and as many as possible. He rented a moving truck and drove it into a crowd of people crossing a busy street in a very busy electronics shopping district in the middle of the day on Sunday afternoon. After doing so, he got out of the van and attacked many more people with a knife.
It's so strange how many decisions we make throughout our lives that can put us in or take us out of hundreds or thousands of different unique situations every day. My chain of event that led me to Tokyo, and then to the Akihabara shopping area while this mass slaughter happened is still replaying in my head and I simply can't believe it. I went to Tokyo because a long time internet friend was going there alone and invited me to join. I decided to go because I wanted to go to Japan since I was about 20. My friend invited me on Monday June 2nd and I thought about it for a few hours then decided OK I'll go. I bought the ticket the next day on June 3rd and my plane took off at 7:00am on June 4th for my 4 hour flight to Tokyo. I had a normal week in Japan full of shopping and doing all of the normal things that tourists do. I was planning to go to Akihabara on Saturday after going to several other places but ran out of time and had to squeeze it into the last day of my trip.
The day of the killing I was very busy in the morning. I had so many things to pack from all of the shopping I had done, and I was even receiving a shipment from a brewery I had visited. I was planning to go to Akihabara in the morning but was delayed due to the overwhelming amount of packing that needed to be done. Finally I checked out of the hotel, left my luggage with the front desk and was on my way to the metro station bound for Akihabara. After arriving I started walking up and down many streets filled with shops all selling electronic equipment of every kind. I must have walked into about 20 different shops, toured through several small alleyways of shops and even stopped for lunch before encountering this dangerous situation.
I approached an intersection where the crossing signal was red and a crowd of people were waiting for it to turn green so they could cross the street. As I usually do, I just work my way to the front of the crowd as I hate to walk behind people who walk slower than me which is just about everyone in the world. So I was in the front of the crowd, the signal turned green and I crossed the street at a nice pace. When I was about 3/4 of the way across I decided I'll cut through diagonally and cross the other street since it is closed to traffic on Sundays and I have enough time to cross both streets before the light turns red. Well just a second or two after I turned, I felt a gush of wind across my right arm and my back which caused me to immediately turn my head to the right. What I saw then was by far the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life. I saw a moving truck slam through a crowd of people all the while the people that were hit directly were rolling under and still being dragged though the intersection underneath the heavy truck. I saw at least 3 people get directly hit with the truck and were partially or totally ran over as the truck smashed into them head on and then rolled and bounced over the bodies
I immediately ran over to the nearest person which was a 71 year old man who was still alive and just barely breathing but bleeding heavily. I stood over him not knowing what to do and trying to think of something I can do. A middle aged man then started frantically screaming and ran over to him to give help to him. I'm assuming it was the old man's son from the emotion that he showed. He was trying very hard to revive his father but it was no use. I could see the old man's eyes start to roll back and he stopped breathing. His son attempted CPR but the old man unfortunately did not survive. There was a girl in even worse condition, 21 years old and she was in the center of the intersection after being totally crushed. I could only see slight movement from her and a pool of blood that was about 1 foot wide and 5 feet long. Of the 3 people most seriously injured by the truck I wish the most that I could have helped to save her. But I must admit that my actions were completely useless and flustered and all I could do is keep thinking about how and why this happened and what I could do to help. Unfortunately nothing useful came to mind. The third victim in the intersection was a man in his late 20's I believe. He was completely run over by the truck to where I could see black tire marks going across the skin of my body and arms. I'm pretty sure that none of those three survived.
What made everything just a little worse is not knowing what is going on. Maybe if I knew more Japanese I would have known what was happening better. Actually I thought the whole thing was an accident! I was thinking to myself, "Did the brakes go out? Did the man lose consciousness while driving? Was it intentional? It’s a rental truck, maybe he's not experienced in driving a truck with airbrakes." Every possible reason of why this happened was flashing through my brain and then suddenly I heard the crowd scream and run away from the intersection and into the shops on the corners. At this point I'm thinking, "are more cars are running through the intersection? Is there a terrorist attack happening?" I also started going into the shop and then stopped and turned back and went out to the corner of the intersection where the old man was still laying on the road with his son over him. After about 10 seconds the crowd formed again around the deadly intersection. Finally I saw a policeman approaching the center of the intersection and I felt a bit of relief that finally the police can handle the situation. But when he got to the center of the intersection, the policeman turned around and collapsed on the ground. Then I could see that he was bleeding heavily from his back. Then a woman walked out there to help him but she was also holding her side because she was bleeding from her side. At this point I was totally confused because I only knew of the truck. So I assumed that these injuries were also resulting from the truck that plowed through the intersection. But I was also thinking that these wounds do not look like those which result from a truck hitting you. But instead of dwelling on that, I saw fit to continue trying to think of a way to help.
At this point, helping wasn't necessary because there were many people helping already and I was afraid I would make things worse. My uselessness in this situation still eats away at me all day as I keep thinking back on this attack. I was even in the Army. I', trained in giving first aid to people that have received serious injuries in battle. I've never had to use any of what I had learned but I can still remember it clearly. I knew CPR would probably cause more damage to the internal organs that have already been seriously damaged in the heavy impact. But what I noticed is that the victims were all lying on their back. I was thinking that if they lay on their sides they won't choke on their own blood that is continuing to flow from their nose and mouth. If I could speak Japanese I would have suggested this but I didn't want to just take it upon myself to do that when I wasn't sure if it would help or just make the condition worse.
After staying there for nearly 15 minutes the ambulances finally arrived to give help. I had seen enough and lost all of my desire to stay in Japan for another second. I just wanted to instantly be home and forget about the horrific things I just saw. I started walking down the sidewalk toward the train station where I passed by even more people on the ground bleeding heavily from their backs. Once again I thought, how can the truck cut all of these people so cleanly? I passed by the truck which had suffered a lot of damage, had a huge spider web looking indentation in the glass which was pretty high off of the ground for a body to have hit. Antifreeze was leaking from the front and the front corner panels were all busted up. And the sides of the truck said "Nippon Rent a Car". Even after seeing the truck when I was leaving the scene, I had no reason to believe it was anything other than a terrible accident.
Confused and flustered I managed my way back to the metro, to the hotel, picked up my bags and went to the airport as soon as I could, leaving this horrible experience behind. Upon reaching home late that night I told my good friend Alec to come over and listen to my story. This is a former Marine who served in Iraq and just recently volunteered in the cleanup of the aftermath of the earthquake in Sichuan. And even he told me that what I saw sounded horrible and worse than what he saw in Sichuan. While he was pulling dead bodies out of the rubble, I saw healthy normal people get killed in one of the safest places in the world. After telling him my story, he said to me, "Wow, Japan is really going to hell. I read something on the internet just a few hours ago how a man stabbed a bunch of people in Tokyo." And I told him that I think my story is probably in the news too. So I immediately got online and Googled "Tokyo truck accident" and took a look at the first match. Yes, it was the same story I told my friend, and even more ironic is that it was the same story my friend had just told to me! It was then that I realized that what I had witnessed was NOT an accident. And the people I saw die were NOT the only ones who had died. And that all of those wounded people that kept turning up everywhere were actually stabbed by the 25 year old crazed man who not only plowed through pedestrians in the street but then also got out of the truck and started stabbing and slashing people with a hunting knife.
This deepened my sense of shock. It was shocking enough to know that I was nearly hit by a truck in a tragic accident where a few people died but then to find out that I was almost intentionally hit by a mass murderer! This is not an easy realization to process. I still can't understand how I came so close to death (about 1 or 2 feet from it) and why I'm still here to tell my story. And if you think of all of the little things that I could have done differently that would have lead me into a place far away from the danger, it amazes me how things actually turned out. If I had just walked a little slower, look at my watch, glanced at a sign or a storefront or done anything to make me cross the street just a little slower, there would be another oval drawn on the street marking where I took my final breaths. And all I can say about it is, "wow, I'm still alive". And while I loved Tokyo, I think I'll wait a while before going back there again.