I will never forget hearing the news in my Senate office on that bleak Friday morning: a devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake had ripped through Japan. The images were gut-wrenching: entire cities reduced to rubble; homes razed or washed out to sea; raging waters sweeping away not just cars and trucks and buildings, but the very fabric of people's lives.
My cousin had recently left for Japan with her husband. I thought of them and of the many other families, Japanese and American, I had personally never met but whose fates were inextricably linked on that tragic day.
Three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. Today, we remember the courage of the citizens of the Tohoku region and all of Japan. We remember the volunteers from nations around the world who dug deep and pitched in. And we remember the outpouring of emotion, from public condolences to those who shared their grief in private ways -- and still do.
I've made two trips to Japan as Secretary of State. Every time I visit, in every meeting, I am deeply impressed by the strength of the Japanese people in overcoming the devastation of 3/11. And I know U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy shares in that pride. Like so many members of her family, Ambassador Kennedy has always understood the vital importance of advancing a cause greater than one's self. That's why she visited the Tohoku region on her first official trip outside of Tokyo. And that's why the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Japanese friends as they rebuild their lives and communities.
On this solemn anniversary, I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan.