Ruairi McLaughlin with his boss in Japan in 2008.
One American family is desperately waiting for word from their son, an interpreter in a northern Japan town near the coast.
Sharon Schieding, of Fort Mill, S.C., said she has not been able to reach her 34-year-old son, Ruairi McLaughlin, since the quake ripped through Japan. He has been living in Japan for two and a half years and is engaged to a Japanese woman.
“I’m devastated. I can’t believe this is happening. I try not to watch too much on the news because when I see all those pictures, I just can’t imagine people surviving that,” she told msnbc.com in a telephone interview. “It is very hard to see that.”
The family last heard from him earlier this week, following an earthquake on Wednesday.
“I’m sure he has been prepared. He is very knowledgeable of his surroundings,” she said. “We’re just waiting to hear anything.”
His father, John Schieding, of Bristol, Conn., said he first heard about the quake and tsunami from Sharon and felt “sheer panic.” He said, to his best recollection, his son was living less than a mile from the beach in the city of Oirase.
“It’s the kind of thing, nobody ever wants to have to deal with,” he said. “It’s kind of ironic that when there’s tragedies in other places in the world, you know, we all observe it and see it on the news and go on with your life, and it’s pretty impersonal. But, when it involves somebody you know, especially a family member, all of a sudden the world becomes a pretty small place.”
There is one piece of encouraging news: “They’ve repeatedly said on the news that all the U.S. military bases are intact, that there were no injuries to any military personnel or equipment and the town he is in is very near an airbase. I’m kind of clinging to that.”
John Schieding said his son graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in East Asian Studies. He last saw him over Christmas 2009, when he brought his fiancée home.
“They obviously were and are very serious about each other, and hopefully they get to have a long life together.”