By Mary Robb Jackson

MT. LEBANON (KDKA) — The kindness of strangers and Facebook helped easy the worries of parents who son is still living in Japan’s quake zone.

On March 11, 25-year-old Matt Ketchum, originally from Mt. Lebanon, was on Facebook in his apartment in Miyako, Japan where he teaches English. He managed to type a single word.

“He writes ‘EARTHQUAKE!’ In caps,” his father said.

The quake and subsequent tsunami turned Miyako, a lovely port city at the foot of mountains, into a roiling disaster.

Only 90 miles from the epicenter, in Miyako, it was as bad as it could be.

Matt Ketchum’s apartment was only about 100 yards away from the sea wall.

Meanwhile, Carlton Ketchum and his wife, Andrea, knew nothing until the next morning.

“And we hear 8.9 earthquake has hit northern Japan,” Carlton said.

There was one email from Matt.

“His message reads: ‘Not dead yet! Earthquake just won’t stop. … am at evacuation center … expecting a three-meter wave.”

That message came five minutes before the wave hit and for Matt’s parents, the wait began – 24 long hours.
“But by Saturday morning, we’re getting pretty frantic,” Carlton said.

The Ketchums began calling the State Department and the military Emergency Command. Finally, reaching out through Facebook, complete strangers sent back bits of information.

Late Saturday, they received confirmation that Matt was OK.

“Matthew is alive and well in Miyako. He has moved in with two friends after living in a temple with his landlord for two days after tsunami,” Carlton read from an email he received.

The latest from Matt this morning: “Where he was telling us, ‘You can stop worrying about me. I know now I am abnormally lucky.’”

Avalanches, destroyed roads and rails prevent Matt from leaving, but he’s already told his parents this is his time to give back.

The Ketchums are very grateful to all those strangers who helped them keep track of Matt.

Miyako is one of many Japanese cities in need of help. The Japan-America Society and the Brother’s Brother Foundation in Pittsburgh are helping with that work.

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