TAMPA - University of Tampa sophomore Emiri Hashimoto has done the trip from Japan to Tampa so many times, she knows what to expect.
"I'm tired, really tired. I still have jet lag. I couldn't go to sleep last night," she said.
This time, it's not only the jet lag that's keeping her awake. It's the memory of one night that has stayed with her for many more.
"I was just panicking. It was the scariest moment I've ever had in my life," Hashimoto recounted.
Hashimoto was home in Nagano with her parents for Spring Break when the earthquake hit. She says she is used to earthquakes where she lives, but this one was different.
"The whole thing was moving and everything on the shelf fell. I hit my head and stuff," Hashimoto said. "I thought I was going to die."
Hashimoto had planned to stay just three days but the devastation kept her a week longer, as she watched news coverage of her country crumble to the ground.
"Unbelievable. It was really hard to believe it was actually happening."
Hashimoto says she and her family found another part of the experience unbelievable, the information she says government officials gave them about a damaged nuclear reactor, leaking radiation.
"'Just calm down, it's harmless, it's not a big deal,'" Hashimoto explained. "But I'm pretty sure it's a big deal."
She wore a scarf around her head and face until she left Japan for Tampa last weekend, but she worries about her parents who are still in Nagano.
Hashimoto wants them to move to the United States because she's not sure she'll ever feel safe in Japan again.
"I don't want to go back to Japan anymore."
Hashimoto says she feels safe in Tampa, even if she still can't sleep.
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