Senior Editor Tom Sawyer wrote this week’s cover story after shadowing members of the American Society of Civil Engineers and their Japanese counterparts as they examined debris from the March 11 tsunami in Japan. The team searched for clues for improving design standards for all kinds of buildings and infrastructure that may face a tsunami in the future. It left Sawyer determined to bring home the message that the only possible gain from such tragedies is to learn from them and act on the knowledge.
The idea for the trip came from a conversation between Sawyer and ASCE President Kathy Caldwell at ENR’s Award of Excellence banquet. Both realized the benefit of telling the story of seven technical disaster assessment teams that the association is sending to Japan. Resourceful Sawyer quickly found a flight to Tokyo, a bullet train to Fukushima and a local train to Sendai. He found a room in a private home via the internet and rendezvoused with the team on April 21.