WNY'ers Agonizing Wait To Hear From Loved Ones

March 12, 2011 Updated Mar 12, 2011 at 10:34 AM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

March 12, 2011 Updated Mar 12, 2011 at 10:34 AM EDT

Buffalo, NY

Horrifying pictures of the ultimate disorder sent shockwaves through many including Dr. Stephen Dunnett, Vice Provost of International Education at the University at Buffalo,
"Watching this was very, very painful," said Dunnett.

The pain runs deep for Dunnett and a group of students and other faculty members who watch the aftermath in a room together at the University at Buffalo. The whole scene is like deja vu for Dunnett, the Vice Provost of International Education at UB. He lost many students and colleagues in an earthquake in southern Japan 15 years ago.

"In Kobe we had a lot of students and staff and sadly quite a few of our friends at Konan University, which is a major exchange partner, they were killed," said Dunnett.

Gratefully, the few students from western New York currently studying abroad near the epicenter of the quake were reported safe and uninjured. And there was more good news. Kieko Ogata, a native of Japan and one of more than 100 students in the Buffalo area studying at UB, says she was trembling almost as hard as the earthquake. She was worried about her family's safety in Tokyo. Ogata was finally able to get in contact with her family and they told her not to worry, they were okay.

"My family members who live in Tokyo told me they never experienced that kind of huge shake," Ogata said quietly.

As images of the towering tsunami washed across the screen, time stood still for Diane Maynard, a Clarence mother whose 26 year old daughter Esther is on vacation in Japan with a friend. They told Diane they were able to leave the area just in the nick of time.

"They were spending some time in Tokyo and just before the earthquake hit they had left," said Diane.