Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Revisiting the @tsunamiharley story

A little while back, when that Harley-Davidson washed up on a remote island in British Columbia -- the first major piece of tsunami debris to arrive in North America -- Harley-Davidson was pretty quick to offer to restore the bike and return it to its owner. It was a mainstream media story for a few days, especially in Canada, but it wasn't long before it fell off the radar screen.

This video clip tells the story, as of about three weeks ago. It turns out, it had one poignant closing note.

Ikuo Yokoyama lost his father and brother in the tsunami. It swept away his home and everything in it (and the container, in the back yard, where he parked his Harley.) He's still living in temporary shelter.

At first, he was thrilled they'd found his bike, but when he was told that Harley-Davidson was going to refurbish it and return it to him, Ikuo told Harley he could not accept it. He said, it would not be fair to spend so much on him and his motorcycle, when so many tsunami victims still have nothing.

I've written in the past about the way, in the weeks after the tsunami, millions of dollars worth of Japanese cash was found in the wreckage, and turned over to authorities. I won't bother asking the people rebuilding Joplin how much cash was turned in there, after the tornado that wrecked the town at about the same time the tsunami was doing its thing. Zero fucking dollars, you can be sure.

Only about 1/4 of the people living in the tsunami area were insured against such a flood. Most people who were insured were covered for their homes only, not contents. I hear that Harley-Davidson's offered to give the money they would have spent restoring Ikuo's hog into a tsunami relief fund in his name. That's small beer, but I guess it's all that's expected of them.

I don't have a conclusion for this post, sorry. I am not sure what should be done with Ikuo's motorcycle. I with they'd just left it on that remote beach with a plaque telling the handful of visitors that would see it every year that the rightful owner could have had it back, but refused it, because he couldn't bear the thought that he'd been treated better than anyone else.

We could use a few more people like that guy.

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