Turning Poison Into Medicine

The following is a report from the Minnesota Youth Division regading the bridge collapse, including a timeline of the response by fellow members and Sensei.

Although the bridge collapsed less than three miles from the community center, we have currently learned that none of the members were on the bridge and that none of their family members were directly impacted by the bridge collapse.

This experience is truly teaching us about the importance of member care. Many district and chapter leaders in our metro and outlying area (including North Dakota and parts of Wisconsin) worked tirelessly, amidst their busy schedules to follow up with every member to ensure their safety.

The reports from these leaders have been tremendously heartfelt. They are sharing that the members are so appreciative that someone from the organization called to check on them. Even members who have been disconnected from the organization for years expressed their appreciation for their concern and how wonderful the SGI organization is for contacting them. Some of these members even explained that no one else cared to call them, and because of that, they are appreciative.

The district and chapter leaders have been sharing joyful stories of reconnecting with members whom they’ve lost touch with and their own appreciation for this auspicious training in member care. One leader said that she felt like Sensei was training us directly to care for each member on a daily basis and learn how to respond quickly in times of tragedy.

This tragedy is also teaching us about how each one of us are connected with each other. As practitioners of humanity (words of Al Bailey, Central Territory Vice Men’s Division Leader), we are here, not just to chant for the protection of our members, but for the protection of everyone and most importantly, the protection of the peace of the land. I’ve been chanting to understand why such an event occurred here.

And the most clear response from my prayer was from Sensei’s message, the messages from the National and Territory leaders, and the Gosho On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land: this event reflects the karma of the people. And as practitioners of humanity and the peace of the land, through our prayer and action based on the Lotus Sutra, we have the opportunity to change this poison into medicine. This is our time to change our karma.

This is my prayer, and that of many others. Through continuous member care, dialogue, daimoku, and study, we will certainly change the karma of Minneapolis, and the rest of the land.

On behalf of the MN Area Youth Division and general membership, thank you to everyone across the U.S. and around the world for your continuous daimoku and warm wishes. They are definitely felt throughout Minneapolis and the rest of the Minnesota Area.

Emanada Thomas, on behalf of the Minnesota Youth Division

Timeline of Events

6:05pm On Wednesday, August 1st, bridge collapsed
6:20 – 6:30pm – YWD receives call from mother notifying her of the bridge collapse and checking on her safety…YWD hears the details from the news over the phone from the television set. Auspiciously, the YWD had just arrived at the post office close to the bridge with a box of memos, letters, and photos for Sensei.

6:30 – 6:31pm - YWD begins sending text messages to members across the US to chant., started chanting in her car for the protection of the people involved in the bridge collapse.

7:00pm – YWD arrives at a scheduled home visit, learns more about the destruction from the TV, and gegins chanting with the YWD for the protection of the members. YWD also sends text messages to members asking if they are OK. (No calls were made because citizens were asked not to use their cell phones because emergency crews needed them. They continue to chant…

8:00pm – YWD realizes that Sensei probably has no idea of the bridge collapse and should receive a memo. The two YWD rush to the community center to fax a memo to Japan. Upon arriving at the community center, the YWD learns that the national leaders have been notified already and the many of the leaders, especially WD, had already begun to call their members to be sure they are OK and report to the Area about their status.

8:20pm – YWD send fax to Sensei alerting him of the Bridge Collapse.

8:23pm – YWD sends emails to members and leaders to see how they are doing.

8:26pm – YWD sends another email to leaders asking them to check in with their members to make sure they are ok.

8:32pm – YWD sends an email to line leaders members, and concerned friends:


Please send daimoku that the incoming storm will stay away from the bridge that collapsed. Please chant for the protection of everyone and that the rescue workers are able to get to everyone quickly.

There are at least 3 deaths
There is an estimated 50 cars in the river
The bridge collapsed around 6pm (rush hour).
The bridge went down quickly in about 5 seconds total.
Right now, there is a lot of lightening about 2 miles north east of the bridge collapse.

So far, I have not heard of any members involved.

I will update later.

8:40pm – The YWD leave the community center to see that the storm was dissipating. The lightening had completely stopped, the clouds were rising and breaking, and there was a beautiful, warm orange hue in the sky. We could truly feel the protection of everyone’s daimoku from around the US and the world. YWD returned to the members home for evening gongyo and learn more about the tragedy.

11:00pm – YWD arrives home and calls her YWD Zone leader. Immediately, the Zone leader inquired about the members and particularly, the YWD. I responded to the best of my ability, but felt like I had fallen short because I hadn’t contacted everyone and could not immediately give her the details on each specific member. She then shares with the YWD Area leader that She had just received a message from Danny Nagashima explaining that Sensei sent a response.


August 1st, 2007 8:18pm (L.A .time) – 10:18 CST
“I, too, watched the news and was concerned about the incident of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse. Thank you for your report.
I am praying for the safety of every member.
The staff of SGI (Tokyo) are also sending daimoku.
This must be a difficult situation, but when you chant, you can definitely change poison into medicine.”

The YWD Area leader writes down the unofficial translation to share with the members.

The Zone leader also explained that she spoke with James Herrmann, the Territory Men’s Division Leader, about the Bridge and he explained to her that this is an important time for the Youth Division to be trained in responding in an event like this and making sure that every member is cared for and accounted for. The Zone YWD leader explained that this is really a time for the youth division, especially the YWD (since there is currently no Area YMD leader) to lead this effort and not leave it to the WD and MD to do all of the work. She also shared that James offered his help in any way if we needed it.

11:35 – The YWD area leader calls a local chapter YWD leader to help send an email of Sensei’s message to the members.

11:45 – The two YWD send the memo to the Area Leaders to send to their members.

12:00am – The Zone Leader rejoins the call with the Area and Chapter YWD leaders. The Zone leader explains James Herrmann’s guidance. The two YWD leaders in Minnesota determined that the YWD would lead this effort and work together to follow up with the members.

12:20am – The YWD chants a little more daimoku before going to bed. She determined to do a better job following up with every member and responding to the concerned leaders and to Sensei.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

In the Morning:

Local and outlying leaders (chapter, district, and group) are doing their best to contact their members despite their busy schedules. Most YD leaders are contacting their members and working with their co leaders.

Area WD and YWD Leaders discuss a plan for how to develop a clear method of communication for groups, districts, and chapters to report the status of their members.

11:57am, YWD sends out a form to all Area, Chapter, and District leaders to document how each member is doing. Districts begin submitting reports using the requested format within 5 minutes.

Fast Forward:
6:30pm Al Bailey, Men’s Division Vice Territory Leader arrives in Minnesota on behalf of the SGI-USA and Sensei to see the members first hand and visit the location of the bridge collapse. Twenty eight members arrive for a 7:00 meeting to chant together for the protection and quick rescue efforts of those who were on the bridge when it collapsed, and their families.

No comments: