Japan flights met with relief at MSP

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2011 - 10:41 PM

Emotions run sky high at the Twin Cities airport as flights from Tokyo bring home people who are safely out of Japan's earthquake/tsunami/radiation zone.

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His eyes trained on the sliding doors, 5-year-old Wameng Yang listened to his grandfather's soft words.

Any minute now, his grandmother would appear atop the giant escalator behind those doors at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Safe.

Other families, too, camped outside those doors at 11:30 a.m. Thursday to wait for the daily flight from Tokyo that would deliver their loved ones from the land of earthquake and tsunami and nuclear danger.

In Japan, large crowds of evacuees flocked to the airport near Tokyo after several foreign governments advised their citizens to leave. The first evacuation flight of U.S. citizens left Japan on Thursday with fewer than 100 people aboard, mostly dependents of U.S. officials and some private citizens, according to the State Department.

In Minneapolis, Delta Flight 620 from Tokyo/Narita delivered passengers who were leaving Japan willingly or reluctantly and those just passing through from other parts of Asia.

There was Scott Cummings, an electrical engineer from Roseville, whose business trip to Tokyo was cut short because of safety concerns. He was originally scheduled to return April 2, but the rest of his work team wanted to leave sooner. "They were getting more nervous about the nuclear things," he said.

His wife, Lyssa Cummings, let out a shriek after he surprised her with a tap on the shoulder, then a hug.

His teenage daughter, Karli, said she was angered when she heard that her father didn't think he was in danger. He was considering staying to help because of the country's need for engineers to help rebuild.

"He didn't realize how intense it was," she said. She knew, she said, because she and her mom had been watching the news constantly and updating him about the dangers.

Through the sliding doors came a man wearing a square mask over his mouth, pushing a luggage cart full of suitcases.

Koho, of Plymouth, who did not want his last name published, said he had been in Tokyo on business for the past four weeks.

When the earthquake hit, he was in an office building. He felt it swaying. "In [Japanese] buildings, they were built to endure more impact, such that they can sway so you feel like you're on the sea," he explained.

Usually, when there's an earthquake, the swaying lasts 15 to 30 seconds. This time, he said, it felt like 4 minutes -- there was the initial, major earthquake and then the aftershocks.

He wasn't the only one who felt seasick, he said.

When he left Tokyo, things were relatively normal, but fears were rising about the nuclear reactors. "All of us are worried," Koho said.

Little Wameng Yang sat in his chair until he couldn't stand it anymore.

He walked toward the doors and stood, his small hands wrapped around the bouquet of flowers for Grandma.

When he didn't see her, he grew weary and sat down again.

Mo Yang had been in Thailand for two weeks and was flying through Tokyo on her way home to Brooklyn Park.

"She was concerned about what was going on in Japan," said her husband, Dr. Yang Dao. He called a friend in Tokyo and got word that the city was OK and that Narita Airport was open. Her flight should get through.

But the family did not relax until she appeared at the sliding doors.

The doors opened and she entered the room. The little boy stepped forward and presented his flowers. She smiled and bent down. He leaned into her arms and they embraced.

Mo Yang carefully placed the bouquet in her luggage cart and walked alongside her husband, their grandson bouncing behind them.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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