This Is Us

This Virus Exposes Our World as It Really Is

When the tide recedes, the ruins, the rocks, and the pearls are revealed

Hannah Jones
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readMay 3, 2020

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A photo of a man standing in a sphere desert.
Photo: Paolo Carnassale/Getty Images

One day at the Oregon beach, the kids were small, and we were flying kites while the dog chased seagull shadows along the sand. The sun was shining. Suddenly, a siren began to wail, screaming along the entire beach. The tsunami siren.

A clammy, cold tremble ricocheted through my body, a jolt of existential fear in the midst of this great expanse of sea and sand and sun, laughter still echoing in my ears. I scooped up my two kids and screamed at my husband to leave, we have to leave, now. No, forget your stuff, forget the filled fridge, the clothes and the toothbrushes, grab the dog, get in the car, go, just go. My panic made my children cry. We tore out of the quiet seaside town, leaving everything behind, up, up, up out of the tsunami range. We pulled into the car park on the cliff top, alongside all the other evacuees. From the safety of the cliff we waited and watched.

Everything was suspended, hauntingly silent, a pause in time, the ultimate expression of presence. All future was gone. Suddenly, the sea pulled back, way back, farther back than any low tide I’d ever seen, silently, swiftly, leaving wet sand and rocks, darker and darker the farther the water receded. We held our breath. We looked out to the horizon. Is the sea rising? Is that a wave in the distance? I clenched my children’s hands. Will we be witness to devastation and death? Will we lose everything or escape? Are we the lucky ones or the fated ones, to be here, today, when this happens? What have I not done, or said, before I die? I hugged my family and said: I love you. I was softly weeping. And then, just like that, the sea sighed and rolled back in, in one silent rush, all the way up to the high tide mark. And that was it. For us.

In Japan, thousands died as the tsunami waves roared in, sweeping with disdain into the sea the towns and homes and families and dreams.

The siren stopped and our hour of fear was forgotten by the time the sun set, yet we were subtly altered by the stretch of time between the siren and the sigh of the sea falling back into place. In that pause in life, we tasted fear. We were reminded of…

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