CNN Situation Room correspondent Brian Todd, producer Dugald McConnell and photojournalist Doug Schantz spent a week embedded with a USAID search-and-rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia. The team traveled in some of the most devastated areas in Japan searching for bodies and survivors. Unfortunately, the team found no survivors in the rubble. Here's Brian's reporter's notebook. (The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer airs weekdays 5-7 p.m. ET and Saturday 6 p.m. ET):
I think what stands out most in my memory is the images of standing in the middle of the rubble. The pictures we saw were amazing. To stand in the middle of it and look around at the complete devastation and realize the force of the water, and what it must have been like to stand there and watch everything just get swept away, that was just an amazing sensation.
It was also amazing to look at the people coming back and picking through their houses, that just weren't even there anymore, looking for remnants of their lives. One of the rescuers told me that can be a way of preventing themselves from falling into depression: to find a remnant of their past lives in order to start anew.
The biggest challenges were sometimes just walking 10 or 15 feet over the rubble. I'm following one of the rescuers, to try to bring that home to viewers. It can be tricky going sometimes - stepping over something, squeezing through openings or crossing a pile of rubble.
Another challenge was transmitting our material, where there is no power or internet or cell service. We used batteries and generators and a machine called a b-gan, which let us transmit by connecting our laptop to the internet using a small satellite antenna. It has to be outside and costs about $16 a minute. The other challenge was consuming the MREs, meals ready to eat, in plastic pouches. You're eating what the soldiers eat in wartime. We were eating this every day for about eight days.
But those challenges were nothing compared to the difficulties the people we saw faced in the disaster and will face in rebuilding.
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