EAST HANOVER, N.J. (CBS 2) — As fears of radiation contamination rise in Japan, an American man and his Japanese wife talked about how they got their family out of the country and into New Jersey.
Kevin Smith and his wife, Mayumi, feel safe now that they’ve gotten their young children out of their home in Fukushima City, which sits just 50 miles from the troubled nuclear power plant in Japan.
Their thoughts, though, are with the family still in Japan.
“We’re okay, but Mayumi’s family is still there,” Kevin said. “We don’t know where they will go from here.”
“I left my parents, sisters, nieces, nephews,” Mayumi said.
The Smiths’ journey started after the earthquake and tsunami hit.
“For a while we slept in the car, staying in our car all night, until Mayumi said, ‘let’s look for shelter,’” Kevin said. “We ended up sleeping with a couple hundred people.”
Then, fears of radiation contamination became more real.
“I said, ‘Mayumi, we’ve got to get somewhere, somehow,’” Kevin said.
Unfortunately, there was no gas to be found for their car – anywhere.
“I was running up the street. I ran up to the gas station to see what the situation was, and the sign said ‘no gas,’” Kevin said. “It was surreal, like out of a movie, when you wonder what your hero is going to do next.”
That’s when Kevin, who was teaching in Japan, turned to his neighbor.
“Went out the front door, his car was running, ready to go, and I said, ‘you have a ride in your car?’” he said. “I felt almost desperate.”
Their trip took them through the devastated coast, where the couple had vacationed just days before the tsunami ravaged it. It’s also where Mayumi teaches school – where she could have been had it not been for her maternity leave.
“The situation is very serious,” Mayumi said.
Kevin and Mayumi left with a couple of bags, toys for their kids and newspapers chronicling the tragedy in Japan.
“I don’t know what radiation does to you, but it can be really bad,” Kevin said. “We’re still trying to figure it all out. Time will tell where we end up or how it will affect us in the long run.”
For now, the Smiths are staying with Kevin’s family in East Hanover, which has come together with lots of love to help pull them through these uncertain times.
Smith is also an author, and he said proceeds from his books sold online will go toward helping the Japanese people.