Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sendai Airport Reopening with US troops' help

US Troops Clear Way for Sendai Airport Reopening

A Japan Airlines Express flight from Haneda Airport lands at Sendai Airport in Sendai, Japan, making it the first commercial flight to the airport since the March 11 tsunami ravaged the airport and region.

SENDAI, Japan -- Once a tangled, muddy mess of vehicles, dead bodies and crushed buildings, Sendai Airport is again open for business.

Sendai resident Hideki Sato, 38, snapped a photograph and clapped his hands in excitement when the first 737 Japan Airlines passenger jet touched down at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The jet had a message painted in red on its side: Ganbatte (Good Luck) Japan.

A crowd of travelers, Japanese and international media and a few U.S. troops were at the airport to greet the first passengers as they walked into a gleaming arrival hall. The parking area in the front of the airport was still surrounded by mountains of wrecked cars, piles of debris and shattered buildings, but there was no trace of a large U.S. military camp that had been there as recently as last week.

The Americans played a major role in clearing the runways.

"When the Americans started work here, there must have been a lot of damage," Sato said of the U.S. military's effort after the deadly earthquake and tsunami devastated the area March 11. "I wonder how they felt when they saw how much work was needed."

Yuko Sato, 39, who joined her husband in welcoming the first flight, wept as she recalled driving toward the airport earlier and seeing the damage caused by the tsunami.

"I saw the damage on television but I didn't think it was that bad," she said. "It's amazing that they could open the airport so fast."

One of the U.S. soldiers at the airport Wednesday, Logistics Task Force 35 commander Lt. Col. Stacy Townsend, 43, of Dawson Springs, Ky, said the reopening of the facility was awesome....

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