This is a lost and found story with a twist. A football that was washed away by the devastating tsunami that hit Japan last year has been discovered a year later on the other side of the Pacific Ocean: in Alaska. According to officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this football is one of the first pieces of debris from the tsunami to have traveled all across the ocean and washed ashore more than 5,000 kilometers away.
The ball belongs to Misaki Murakami, a 16-year-old boy from the town of Rikuzentakata, and it was discovered by David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, Alaska while he was beachcombing with his wife in March on Middleton Island, 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of the Alaskan mainland. Baxter could identify the owner of the ball because the teenager’s name was inscribed on it.
Baxter and his wife Yumi, who is Japanese, managed to track Murakami down with the help of a Japanese reporter, and the couple has spoken with Murakami over the phone. They intend to return the ball to him shortly.
The tsunami, which struck Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011 and killed about 19,000 people, had swept away all the furniture and valuable objects in Murakami’s home. That, coupled with the fact that the football, given to him as a goodbye gift when he was in third grade in 2005 and contained messages of encouragement, has made Murakami specially thankful on learning about its discovery.
“It was a big surprise. I’ve never imagined that my ball has reached Alaska,” Murakami told reporters. “I’ve lost everything in the tsunami. So I’m delighted,” he said. “I really want to say thank you for finding the ball.”
Murakami also expressed his gratitude to the couple for “for wanting to take the time to even try to find him”.
Baxter, for his part, was equally happy to have been at the scene of such a touching incident. He told reporters that the moment he first saw the football his first instinct was that it must have come from the tsunami zone. He also stumbled upon a volleyball that is seemingly from Japan, but he hasn’t yet been able to locate the owner of that ball.
Baxter and his wife plan to visit Japan in May but they want to keep it a hush-hush affair. They know that if they hand the ball directly to Murakami, it will cause plenty of commotion and possibly unwanted attention on the Murakami family. They will most likely return the football to its owner in a more unobtrusive way.
The Japan tsunami may have been a terrible tragedy, but at least in some small minuscule way there is going to be a happy ending.