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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  June 23, 2018 3:00am-4:01am PDT

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ever possible. but here we are. >> and we're very glad to see you safe. >> thank you. >> wonderful, wonderful. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> everything just began to shake. i just kept asking where is she, have you seen her? i wouldn't know what i'd do without her. >> it looked like the world was ending. >> growing up in indiana, tsunamis and earthquakes are the things you only see in hollywood films. >> he was sure his world had ended. the love of his life was missing. >> that feeling that she's not all right began growing as each minute went by. >> strangers in a strange land
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had fallen in love, then the quake hit, and all he knew was her town was gone. >> literally come hell or high water i was getting into that damn town. >> that's where he headed, right into that hell, willing to risk his life to try to save hers. >> fires on the hill, fire on the water. >> but could he get there in time? >> i never loved someone the way i loved georgia. >> welcome to "dateline." it's an epic love story, a young man from small town indiana heads to japan to teach. there he meets a beautiful woman from a land nearly as far away and they fall in love. but soon this young couple finds themselves in the middle of one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory, with whole towns being wiped out, would they survive?
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here is keith morrison with "swept away." >> who can say what lurks out there past the horizon, waiting i'm personally utterly at random as thousands of lives tick to their unknowing end. and simple coincidence, a young man from middle america made a single decision. >> could you imagine back there in indiana that you're about to make your life flip on its head? >> no, never. >> how could he know that on the other side of the world a young woman made exactly the same decision or that they'd meet practically on the eve of one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory? or how could he know that in the middle of disaster he'd lose her. >> i wouldn't know what i would do without her.
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>> so coincidence, love, disaster. there is no fairness about these things, they just are. zach brannon turned 23 in 2010. i just picked up a degree in history from a college in indiana, no idea what to do next. and then he saw an offer for a job in japan, a two-year stint teaching english to elementary school kids, no japanese language skills required. >> why japan of all places? >> i don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it. i think it was just offered to me and i jumped on it. >> the town they sent him to in japan called kuji, a long way from his hometown of nashville, nashville, indiana. on sundays he skyped with his parents john and terry. john is a musician and terry a school guidance counselor. >> how did he seem to be doing? >> it was rough at first, the
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language thing was the big thing. >> you were a stranger in a strange land. >> yes, yes. >> was it a lonely feeling? >> yeah, it was. but it was made better by the fact that there were other foreign teachers in town. >> along with the teachers, there was one other person, a volunteer who helped the foreign teachers adjust, a local english speaking businessman named kenji harayama. kenji, a pretty accomplished guitarist found out that zach was, too. >> i was amazed by his songs, his original songs, and also he played guitar very well. >> kenji pulled out an old gibson, handed it to zach. >> he said consider it yours while you're here. >> zach took that guitar to school trying to break the ice. >> i would play music for them. i think that that kind of helped break down that barrier a bit.
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>> just three weeks in, overwhelmed by homesickness, hep he called his parents. he had had enough. >> maybe as embarrassing as it is, i was actually crying, and i said to him, i can't do this anymore. i want to come home. >> we said, no, you made a commitment. you're a man. you gave your word. >> how hard was it to say that? >> it was really hard. >> it was really hard, yeah. >> i may have probably hung up the phone a bit angry at him because it wasn't the answer i wanted to get. but in retrospect, i'm really glad. >> zach tried to make it work. and then one night when the teachers got together there was someone new, another teacher just returning from a sunny vacation. >> it was this beautiful tan georgia coming back from croatia. >> 23-year-old georgia robinson, a recent university graduate herself from new zealand. she had been teaching and living in a nearby town on the coast called noda. in october, they all went to a karaoke bar.
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>> found out she was a huge fan of kiss. so myself loving rock and roll, that sparked my interest. >> did it seem to be the same the other way around? >> well, no, actually, because i didn't hear anything from her after that night. >> no idea that back in new zealand, georgia's cousin chelsea started hearing about a guy named zach. >> she said he was really outgoing and a really nice person who was interested in all the same sort of things as her. they liked the same music and the same movies. >> then a few weeks later she called him. ♪ >> here they are practicing with the other teachers for a december dance performance. >> from then on we ended up spending progressively more and more time together. >> it was a happier young man who went home to indiana for christmas. zach introduced his parents to georgia, sort of. >> i met her on skype. bless her heart, she had the flu
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and had her bathrobe on and was not feeling well. what a way to meet us. >> what did you think about this relationship with a girl so far away? >> we weren't putting that much stock in it. >> we were grateful that he had someone to spend time with. >> i was talking to my mom. she was like, so you really care for georgia, don't you? and i was like, yeah. my mom got a bit choked up and said, what happens if you move to new zealand? i had to assure my mother and say that's never going to happen, mom. >> come january, zach seemed eager to get back to japan. and then two months later, friday, march 11th, 2011, the day before his father's birthday. >> i actually spent a lot of the day writing my dad a nice big birthday e-mail. i had hit send on that e-mail and was talking to georgia on gmail chat, i'll see you after this rehearsal. >> boom. >> boom.
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everything just began to shake. i was in an office chair with wheels. so immediately as it started, the chairs just kind of began to slide. things began falling off the shelves. >> zach had never been in an earthquake. but his coworkers knew that this bun one was big. worried that the building might collapse, they ran downstairs and out to the parking lot, but soon they were told it was okay. it was over. but when the shaking stopped, the disaster was just beginning. there was a monster out there over the horizon called fate, and it was coming very fast. almost as soon as zach got back to his desk, warning sirens went off. even zach knew what that meant. if the tsunami was heading to his town of kuji two miles inland, what was it going to do on the coast in noda where georgia was?
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>> what had happened to georgia? had anyone in her town survived the tsunami? >> coming up, zach knew he had to find her and a world away zach's parents still hadn't found him. >> this can't be happening. are you sure it's where zach is. >> when "dateline" continues. ( ♪ ) stop dancing around the pain that's keeping you awake. advil pm gives tossing and turning a rest and silences aches and pains. fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer with advil pm. fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer add the activia 2 week probiotic challenge to your healthy routine and see how activia yogurt with its billions of live and active probiotics may help support your digestive health so you can take on your day. text for a coupon and start the activia probiotic challenge today. happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long.
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keith morrison (voiceover): friday morning, march 11th, 2011. in nashville, indiana john and terry whitcomb friday morning, march 11,
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2011. in nashville, indiana, john and terry whitcomb had barely had a sip of their morning tea when the news jolted them awake. >> this was a very powerful earthquake. the images are stunning out of japan. >> an epic earthquake hit northern japan, 9.0, near the top end of the richter scale. then a huge tsunami crashing up the coast. it was like watching a disaster movie, this one horribly real. and john and terry's son zach was now right in the middle of it. >> what did you think? >> unreal. this can't be happening. are you sure it's where zach is? are you sure it's in the same region? we were looking at maps, and everything was pointing to, yeah, it's exactly where zach is. >> we just prayed. >> enormous waves you see here were hitting noda and kuji, the towns where zach and georgia
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were teaching. the frantic calls began, to no avail. >> what happened when you tried his phone? >> it would say all circuits are busy and you'd get a busy signal. >> then the minutes went by. >> uh-huh. >> then an hour and two hours. what did that feel like? >> hell. >> as a parent, you never think, oh, my child has been killed. out don't think that. you just wait. you just wait and just pray for the best. >> remember, zach had wanted to come home months earlier, but terry and john had encouraged him to stay, to live up to his commitment. >> how much did you beat yourself up about that? >> i did. >> seemed right then, but now? >> it was just the helplessness of we're way over here and there's not a thing we can do. >> georgia's family in new zealand including cousin chelsea were just as scared and just as helpless.
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>> one of my friends got a text that said there had been a massive tsunami in japan. obviously we all freaked out because georgia was over there. >> they turned on the tv and saw images from noda, the little coastal town where georgia was based. >> it was unrecognizable from the images she had sent to us. the buildings were destroyed, there was debris everywhere. >> and georgia, though they tried and tried, was unreachable. >> we really thought that she had gone, kind of lost hope i guess. >> back in indiana that night, the news ever worse, john turned on his computer and read that last e-mail from zach. >> he sent it literally ten minutes before the earthquake hit, birthday greeting. >> and said what? >> happy birthday, love you. >> it said much more than that, though.
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>> dearest rock and poppy, happy birthday. whoo hoo, the wig five-oh. the more and more time we spend apart the more and more i realize how amazing of a father and friend you have been to me over the years and have always given me a perfect example of how a man an husband is to treat a woman and his wife. >> my gosh. >> i was thinking, god, is this the last thing i hear from my son, you know. >> and it's that. >> yeah. >> saturday morning, more than 24 hours since they had any communication from their son -- >> by 8:30, we still hadn't heard anything. we still woke up to even more horrible images and then had time to think about the death tolls and all that. it was just compounding and compounding and compounding. >> and then about the moment all seemed lost, another e-mail arrived, not from zach. it was from kenji, the volunteer mentor in japan, just a few words, and they meant
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everything. >> brannan son survived. basically that was all it said. >> what was that like? >> of course we wanted more details. >> it was a relief. >> zach was alive. all they needed to know for now. but georgia, still no word. while his parents worried about him at home, zach was riding out the chaos in kuji. >> i wasn't really sure what was going on at first. >> after the shaking stopped, zach and his co-workers moved to the top floor of the kuji city hall, a sort of crow's nest with a view of the whole city and the coastline. >> if something is going to happen, this is where you'd see it? >> yes. >> then he saw it. something about the rivers that split the city and normally flow out to the sea. >> the river was beginning to flow in the opposite direction. the water began to change color as well, began going from this
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bluish color to being very murky. >> even four stories up, zach could hear the roaring river. >> it went from having small debris like trees and other rubbish that was around the harbor and stuff coming in to boats and to vehicles -- to much larger and much more substantial things. >> vehicles? cars and things coming along -- >> yeah, must have been picked up along the coast. >> that is getting scary, right? >> yes. >> of course, zach hadn't seen the footage that everybody outside the country had seen, towns wiped off the map, thousands missing. he couldn't know how bad it was. >> did your mind turn at all when you were up here to what's going on down there where georgia is? >> i hoped she would be doing the same thing that i was, that she would be in a safe location. >> a safe location? was there such a thing where georgia was? as the water around him began to recede and zach and his co-workers came downstairs, he realized everybody was
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incredibly quiet. >> people's expressions had changed so drastically to these looks of genuine fear, that's when i thought i, myself was scared. >> now he understood. if the wave got as far as his town further inland, it had to have hit georgia's town right on the coast. what happened to all those people there, to georgia? suddenly he knew he had to find this girl, just had to. >> i wanted to see her, and i wanted to comfort her as well. >> no idea what would be waiting for you at that end? >> no, not the slightest. >> there's a moment in some lives that defines everything that comes after, the tests, the trial. this was zach brannon's test, to pass or fail. >> coming up -- >> i never loved someone like i loved georgia.
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keith morrison (voiceover): zach brannon didn't fully comprehend how bad it was. zach brannon didn't fully comprehend how bad it was. the tremendous earthquake and the deadly wall of water that followed it was snubbing out more than 18,000 lives.
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tens of thousands of homes, whole towns were being swept away, but zach didn't know that yet. >> i just wanted to find georgia, my best friend and i wanted to make sure she was all right. >> zach kept telling himself she was all right. noda, the small town on the coast where georgia lived was protected by massive concrete sea walls and barriers. >> so your first thought wasn't, oh, god, she's in trouble. it was more, thank god there's a wall. >> yes. yeah, it's there. there's no possible way it could have gotten over that. >> how did you find out you were wrong? >> well, i decided -- i just left, i left work. >> back in indiana zach's parents, relieved their son was alive got another e-mail. zach was going to look for georgia. >> now a whole new set of concerns like -- i wasn't even exactly sure where she was.
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so once we figured that out, we looked it up on the map, well, it wasn't far away, but we just -- >> it was even closer to the coast. >> it was closer to the coast. >> wondering what he might find. he was over there by himself and what would he do if he didn't find her. you know, it was just -- it was all those things. >> zach hopped in his car and began the eight-mile drive down the winding road from kuji to noda. >> as i come down the hill, i start noticing people are walking on the side of the road, no cars, they're just walking. whole families walking and i'm just saying to myself, well, that's odd, that's strange. as i got closer i could see what looked like to be a house on its side just in the middle of the road. i was really confused because where were the tsunami warnings?
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-- walls? >> police had set up a barricade, and beyond it -- >> what did you see over there? >> it was just complete, complete destruction. you know, there had been -- for a lot of the houses they're heated with kerosene. the kerosene tanks had been knocked out because of the tsunami and because of the downed power lines sparked fires. fires on the hill, fire on the water. >> debris everywhere? >> yeah. so it was just a complete scene of destruction really. >> zach, almost in shock, walked toward the barricade blocking the road. >> there was a police officer and he just said to me dangerous, no, and just kind of began trying to escort me back towards where i had parked my car. >> so zach got in his car and drove back to kuji, trying to tell himself it would be okay, that georgia was fine. the scene behind the barricade was chaos, disaster, it was
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obvious there were many casualties was pretty clear. how many was impossible to know. zach understood as he was turned away by the guard that one person's anxiety could not be allowed to trump public safety. yet, at that very moment he understood with absolute clarity, he had to find out what happened to the girl behind the barricade, he had to, if she was alive or dead or injured. he had to because she was the love of his life. >> he sent message after message by text. >> in vain. knowing they weren't going through, but just hoping. little messages of encouragement. i love you. i hope everything is okay. i'm going to come look for you. you know, i've tried. just know i'm coming. >> what were you thinking? >> i wouldn't -- i wouldn't know
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what i would do without her. >> i guess that's the first time you really had to confront it in a serious way, right? >> yes. >> i had never loved someone the way i loved georgia. and -- so i -- i guess i just hoped that she was going to be -- you know, she was going to be fine. i was going to -- >> probably didn't sleep much that night. >> no, no. >> the aftershocks went on all night, so did tsunami warnings. >> so you're thinking, is there going to be another tsunami coming through?
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you know, -- so i didn't really sleep. >> at 5:30 a.m., he knew what he had to do. he left a note on his apartment door just in case georgia made it there. >> and i said, georgia, i'm coming to look for you. if for some reason you make it into kuji, stay here. if i haven't found you by sundown, i'm coming right back here. so know i'm coming back. >> and then he got in his car again and headed toward the coast. >> and i just decided, literally come hell or high water i was getting into that damn town. >> but how? he'd certainly be facing hell and high water, but perhaps the biggest problem was the japanese army blocking the road. >> coming up, was time running out for georgia? had zach lost the love of his life? >> that feeling that she's not
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all right, it began growing as each minute went by. >> when "dateline" continues. ahh. where are mom and dad? 'saved money on motorcycle insurance with geico! goin' up the country. love mom and dad' i'm takin' a nap. dude, you just woke up! ♪ ♪ i'm goin' up the country, baby don't you wanna go? ♪ ♪ i'm goin' up the country, baby don't you wanna go? ♪ geico motorcycle, great rates for great rides.
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immigration is the focus of some of president trump's latest tweets. in one of them last night he said republicans should stop wasting time on a big immigration overhaul until more republicans are elected in the midterm elections. and republicans will try to pass an immigration bill backed by moderates next week in the house. meanwhile, federal authorities are scrambling to find 15,000 beds for detained immigrant families. now, back to "dateline." as the sun rose over the ruined coastal towns of northern japan, zach brannon approached the barricade outside georgia's town noda, determined to get past it, no idea how. >> i parked a little further out
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this time and started walking in, and they still had the police officers and the defense force there with their roadblock, but i noticed what looked like to be a group of locals with shovels and other gear, i'm assuming to go in to try to start clearing paths to the town. so i thought, that's my way in. >> the civilian volunteers seemed to have official permission to get in and clearly knew where they were going. >> so i just pulled my hood up and hopped in line with them. at that point no one was really kind of looking around. >> he slipped past the police line, followed the group up a path away from the main road. he knew where he'd go first, if he could. >> so your first destination was her apartment. >> yes. hope that i'd find her sitting there on the floor reading a book. >> the path led up a hill past this shrine, descended back down to a horrific scene. noda was almost unrecognizable.
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>> there were these massive walls of debris, houses toppled over, boats, of, you know, just anything you could imagine. metal electric polls just bent as if someone has just come through and just -- >> but he knew georgia's place was on a hill. if she had gone there before the tsunami hit, she would be all right. but when he got there -- >> no sign that she was there. everything was still left exactly the way we had left it from the previous morning when we both went to work. >> as he went back outside, zach could see in the center of town. that's where georgia's office was, where she was when the earthquake hit, and what he saw chilled him to the bone. >> what i could see of the central part of the village that was so destroyed, in my mind, i just could not see how -- >> nobody is surviving in that city building. >> yeah. >> shaking that from his mind, zach thought georgia might have
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gone to help out at one of the three schools where she taught. but when he got to the kindergarten, his heart sank. >> the kindergarten was completely gone. >> wiped away. >> yeah. all that was left was a bit of the fence and some of the foundation. >> a kindergarten that would have been occupied? >> i had hoped not. >> later he found out those children were safe, evacuated before the tsunami hit. but now zach went to another school, found a group of teachers huddled in their office. unable to speak japanese, he passed around georgia's business cards with her photo. >> i went in and kept asking, georgia sensai, where is she? have you seen her? >> they had not. but they did give zach some hope. >> they said chub bako, junior high, junior high.
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i take that, oh, she's at the junior high. >> so zach sprinted there, made his way to the teachers' room. >> i asked them, you know, have you seen georgia? they said they had not seen her, and i kind of lost it at that point. >> zach staggered outside, out of options, his despair now total. >> what was happening in your mind? >> just feeling so lost, that feeling that i've been trying to suppress, the feeling of she's not all right. it began growing in size immensely as each minute went by. >> one of the teachers came outside to comfort him with a cup of tea. >> telling me, it's okay, it's okay, it's okay. hugging me and patting me on the back because i'm crying.
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yeah. >> then, out of nowhere, a van pulled up. two men hopped out. zach recognized one as a colleague of georgia's. they didn't look happy. zach tried to ask them. georgia, where is she? where is she? they didn't say -- because they spoke no english and i spoke no japanese, just pretty much like let's go, pointing to the vand a -- van and just pushed me to the van. >> they were taking him to city hall. >> as you were being driven in that van, did you have any idea what they were driving you to see? >> no. >> did you know they had been taking bodies to the city hall? >> no. >> didn't know that? >> didn't know. >> city hall had, in fact, become the temporary morgue. was that where he'd find georgia? >> coming up, the news everyone had been waiting for. >> he was very brave for what he
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don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden signs of bleeding, like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical or dental procedures. eliquis, the number one cardiologist-prescribed blood thinner. ask your doctor if eliquis is what's next for you. where we're changing withs? contemporary make-overs. cardiologist-prescribed blood thinner. then, use the ultimate power handshake, the upper hander with a double palm grab. who has the upper hand now? start winning today. book now at then you might have a dcondition called dry mouth.? biotène is clinically proven to soothe and moisturize a dry mouth. plus, it freshens breath.
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add-on advantage. do you remember the first timehey blue.a dinosaur? you don't really believe it. and then you see one for the first time. it's a miracle. [ roar ] you see that? holy! rated pg-13. keith morrison (voiceover): two men had pushed zach brennan into the back of the van, which was now making its way through canyons of urban rubble. two men had pushed zach brannon in the back of a van which was picking its way through canyons of urban rubble, apparently toward the noda city hall. had zach known the place had been turned into a temporary morgue, he would have understood
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the meaning of the looks on their faces. the van stopped, the men got out. >> they said don't get out, motioning for me to stay in the van. that was it. >> he steeled himself for whatever was coming next. what he did not expect was what he saw. >> around the corner, out walked georgia. >> and i saw this baseball cap over by a car and there he was, the last person in the world i expected to see, trudging across the mud in his boots. there was zach. forlsz >> how was that? >> it was a pretty awesome moment, after the absolute insanity of the last 24 hours, it was surreal, but it was an amazing feeling at the same time to see him there. >> hair all a bit frantic, you
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know, like she had had no sleep like the rest of us. >> big hug, of course. >> she cried. i cried. one of the best hugs ever, you know, knowing that she was safe. >> amazing that somebody will go through the barricades, do whatever is needed to get to you. >> i just couldn't understand how zach had arrived with his baseball cap in the middle of all this. it was insane. >> well, that's the way to a girl's heart. >> yes, yes. >> and georgia's story, well, if zach had been ring side, georgia was center stage. and although she had been through earthquakes before in new zealand, this one was much, much different. >> that's the first time i found it hard to walk or stand in an earthquake. >> still, everyone around her
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seemed okay. she thought it was all just kind of exciting. even when the tsunami siren went off. >> oh, cool, this is really exciting. >> but others knew better and georgia soon learned this was very, very bad. >> they said you need to go upstairs. so i followed everyone. we went upstairs, looked out the window and noda was gone. >> oh, my god. >> this is what georgia saw captured on her cell phone camera. much of the town of noda flowing by the window. >> you were standing right here looking out there. >> this exact spot, yes. >> it's just quite awesome, like half the town is up there. >> yeah. >> there's a roof here. >> there's a roof -- there's actually a house wedged in under the entrance, it's been almost broken in half. >> unbelievable. there's another house drifted
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across the road. >> this house is not usually there. that's just in the middle of the car park. >> just phenomenal. wow. >> she felt safe up here, somehow detached from the horror she was witnessing. and then it hit her. >> there was this moment where it was absolutely silent and you could hear a dog barking off in the distance, and occasionally there would be a shout, but other than that it was so surreal, so silent. >> wow. >> yeah. i won't forget that moment. >> water and debris piled up almost to the second floor. no one could leave. >> what was that like? >> that was the worst night of my life. >> a sleepless night huddled in her boss' office. missing zach, but thinking he was okay further inland. and the next morning a jolting aftershock and more tsunami
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sirens. but then zach found her, and together they looked at what was left of the town. georgia took these pictures. 38 people lost their lives in noda, a tiny percentage of the more than 18,000 who died up and down the coast, but half of noda was simply gone. >> it was like someone had just driven a bulldozer through and it was all gone. how a wave can do that, i don't know. >> lifting complete houses up off their foundations, so all that was left was the shell. >> the front stairs leading up to nothing. >> and then they went to the safest place they could think of, their mentor kenji's office in kuji where the other teachers had gathered. >> kenji being kenji, he found all the food that he could find in his house, anything that we could eat which included lots of beer and saki on hand. >> and music.
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zach and kenji got out the guitars, tried to shut out the world. >> to kind of give ourselves some sense that everything was all right a bit, you know. >> then cell phones chirped back to life. >> everyone frantically had their phones out sending e-mails to our families, telling them we're okay. >> back in indiana zach's parents finally got the news they had been praying for. >> it took me hours and hours, but i found her and she's alive. so the first thing i did was call brenda, georgia's mom, and she was in bed. she wasn't asleep. she was trying to sleep. i said zach found her. she's alive. and she just screamed and started crying. >> mom came in and told me that zach had found her and she was
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safe and she was alive. it was the most amazing feeling i have ever experienced. he was very brave for what he did, very brave. but you do that for people you love. >> the danger wasn't over, of course. we all know what came next. >> so you find out that he's okay, she is okay. now what? >> fukushima. coming up, a different kind of aftershock. >> he said, have you checked your e-mail yet. i have said no. he said why don't you guys look at your e-mail together. so i said, oh, zach, what now? >> when "dateline" continues.
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welcome back, i'm natalie morales. in the aftermath of japan's devastating earthquake . welcome back. i'm natalie morales. in the aftermath of japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, zam branham rushed into the chaos to find his girlfriend, georgia, alive and well. but the couple wasn't out of danger yet. here with the conclusion of "swept away" is keith morrison. >> the fukushima nuclear disaster. >> rescue efforts have been complicated by damage to a nuclear power plant. >> it filled the air waves, potential meltdown, nuclear armageddon. >> the president was calling for americans to get out. >> yesterday, we called for an evacuation of american citizens who are within 50 miles of the
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plant. >> we were seeing on the news that it's melting down. it's just a matter of time. they can't stop it. and -- >> and it could affect the entire country, the entire region of the earth. >> zach had had thought the worst was over. >> so you never think you'd ever experience a tsunami or earthquake and now you're experience ago meltdown of a nuclear power plant. >> but we wanted him to come home. we wanted him to -- >> yeah. >> i mean, here we were the ones saying you have to stay, you made a commitment. >> yeah. now it's time for you to come home. >> but there was -- there was no travel, of course, anywhere. >> and then zach got a call from a u.s. air force officer. >> he said, we will take you to the air force base and we will fly you to a safe location. >> so what did you say? >> i said, well, you know, i actually lied and said georgia was my fiancee. i said my fiancee is a new zealand citizen, you know. >> can i bring her along? >> yeah.
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and he said i'm really sorry. we can only offer this to u.s. citizens at this stage. and i can't leave her behind. >> zach and georgia were 200 miles north of fukushima. as the days passed, they began to feel the danger from the radiation, at least where they were, was subsiding. so they stayed, even helped with the cleanup. and then about a month later, funny how these things go. zach and georgia got another shock. another one of those life-changing developments. zach told his parents about it during one of their regular sunday phone calls. >> and he said, have you checked your e-mail yet? and i said, no. he said why don't you guys look at your e-mail together. and so i said, oh, zach, what now? >> after all the worry and dread they'd experienced over their son's time in japan, zach
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branham's parents weren't quite prepared for the next bit of news. >> so we open the e-mail and there's an ultrasound picture. >> a baby was on the way. >> we were literally speechless. one of the few times i've been speechless. >> so we nicknamed it baby bean because it looked like had a little bean. >> it just -- it felt right, in a way. we were obviously -- well, are obviously in love and the timing wasn't amazing, but it had happened so let's just go with it. >> still, there was one last step. zach hadn't been quite ready to take it before, but when he came home to indiana to see his family -- >> while i was in indiana in june, my mom and my sisters went with me and we went engagement ring shopping. >> did he intend to do that? would he have done that without
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a little push, do you think? >> i don't know. i know that i said would you marry her if she wasn't expecting a baby? and he said yes. i said then she needs to know that. they she needs you to ask her to marry you, not just that it be expected that i'm doing the right thing. so, yeah, maybe i did push him. >> zach went back to japan. he was ready. or so he thought. georgia met him at the train station. >> as we were walking to the car, i -- i don't know. i just -- you just have to stop. >> and i was like, what are you doing? it's freezing. let's get in the car. let's go. and he was like, just wait. and then all of a sudden, he turned around and he is shaking, but he's holding a ring box. >> and i got down on my knee and i just said i love you and i -- i want to spend the rest of my
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life with you. i don't care if it's in japan or if it's in new zealand or siberia. i want to spend the rest of my life with you. and will you marry me? >> and i said yes, of course. i had to put him out of his misery. he looked like he was going to collapse. >> so i was engaged and we didn't know what we were going to do from there or where we were going to go, but we knew we were having a baby and we were going to get married. >> in fact, you got married twice. >> yeah, we did, yeah. >> two weddings. the first in indiana, the second one in new zealand. and there was a special guest at that one. two-month-old sebastian. >> that one. >> yeah, getting real. get something good distance. >> after promising his mother it was never going to happen, sure enough, zach and his family now live in new zealand. he works for the government, georgia at a recruitment agency and sebastian is growing up.
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in 2014, we brought them back to japan for the first time since it all happened. >> my name is georgia. >> georgia! >> this teacher and her students knew about georgia and zach. many here looked upon their story as one positive thing that came out of that horrible tragedy. do you ever -- and this is a totally unfair question. do you ever sometimes sit together at night and say to yourself, boy, if it hadn't been for that day, would we be here? would we have sebastian? would we be in this life together? >> all the time. >> if someone would have told me three years from now you will be living in wellington -- >> married to an american -- >> married to a kiwi with a 2-year-old son -- >> i would have said you're crazy. >> would have thought they were crazy, you know? so could have never imagined this.
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>> helped along by an earthquake, a tsunami and god knows what else. >> yeah. yeah, yeah. yeah. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm natalie morales. thank you for watching. good morning. i'm dara brown in new york at msnbc world headquarters. it is 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. reframing the debate, president trump attempts to change the focus of immigration after weeks of criticism. >> do you hear the other side, you never hear this side. these are the families the media ignores. they don't talk about them. very unfair. why he's now telling republicans to stop wasting their time on immigration reform. plus, a legal showdown is coming as the 20-day holding period forin


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