“What we keep we lose, only what we give remains our own”: Japanese students visit the VHS in honor of St. Catherine’s School alumnae, Taylor Anderson
Taylor Anderson was the first confirmed American casualty of the March 11, 2011, tsunami in Japan. As part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, Taylor spent two years teaching English to kindergarten, lower school, and junior high school students in the coastal city of Ishinomaki.
I never met Taylor, but I felt connected to her as a fellow St. Catherine’s graduate.
Even in the age of the internet, I still take news for granted. 9/11 was all about cell phones, trying to grasp any bits of news flying across the nation as so many called and called but couldn’t get through. Fast forward to 2011, as I watched the news feed on my computer screen, frequently refreshing the web page as I went about my job—hoping that someone would find Taylor.
The world watched the details filter in during the days that followed the tsunami. We witnessed Taylor’s amazing story rise out of this catastrophe. I realized then that I absolutely knew Taylor, as I would know any “Saint.” My alma mater’s motto—“What we keep we lose, only what we give remains our own”—holds fast and true, as I believe all St. Catherine’s girls would have behaved as Taylor did in the face of disaster. She moved her students to a safe location after a massive 9.0 earthquake rocked her classroom. She remained at the school until each student was collected by a parent. As the tsunami siren blared, Taylor attempted to return to her apartment, a half-mile from the coast.
The brightest light comes from the darkest of places. Taylor’s light came full circle for me on November 8, when students from a Japanese government-sponsored exchange with St. Catherine’s School in honor of Taylor visited the Virginia Historical Society. It was amazing to see these young, smiling Japanese high-school students touring the exhibitions and buying America flags in the Museum Shop. Taylor’s dream lives on in the mission of education across cultures and continents. Her light is all around us, in the gift of education and in the joyous expressions of all the children who experience the story of Virginia.
Lizzie Oglesby is the Member and Visitor Services Officer at the Virginia Historical Society.