March 11th marks the two year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck and devastated Japan. One of it's survivors is currently attending school here in Northern Michigan.
The disaster killed 18,000 people leaving behind their surviving friends and family members. 19-year-old Ayaka Ogawa is a senior at The Leelanau School, and will be graduating in June. Despite losing her entire family in the disaster, she is looking far into the future with her dreams while holding her family and her memories close.
"I'm very lucky, and I'm so happy to be here," says Ogawa.
Ogawa lost her mother, father, sister, both sets of grandparents, her home, and all of her memories in one tragic day.
"The tsunami was right behind us and I run and run and I found safe place with help," said Ogawa. "But I couldn't find my mother and grandmother"
After living for two weeks in a shelter with her aunt and cousin who also survived, Ogawa decided that it was time to finally start smiling again.
"I was doing nothing," said Ogawa. "But one day I said, "Becoming happy is the only thing I can do for my parents, family, and friends.""
Ayaka was brought to northern Michigan and to the Leelanau school by Beyond Tomorrow; an organization that focuses on giving young victims affected by the natural disaster a fresh start at life, and moving forward with their dreams.
Today, she has toured the world, given countless public speeches, and met numerous public figures.
A Japanese film crew visited the school to check in on Ayaka, and to see how she has been doing.
"We'd like to cover how she is now in the United States with the wonderful support at Leelanau High School here," said International News Reporter, Shoko Matsumoto. "I think she will definitely be the symbol of hope for the people affected by the tsunami disaster."
It is hope and her family's that keeps Ayaka thinking about tomorrow.
"I think they are saying just keep smiling, keep reaching for my dreams," smiled Ogawa. "Yes, I think they are watching over me. Yes, I'm lucky."
Ayaka is currently studying for the TOEFL Exam (A Test Of English as a Foreign Language). If she passes, she will then be heading to the Parsons School of Design in New York where she will pursue an education and later a career in fashion merchandising.
For the complete, uncut interview, click here.