March 14, 2011 -- The aerial view of Sendai immediately brings to life the iconic scenes of devastation and survival that have been seared into our collective memory over the past five days. ABC News' Diane Sawyer flew over the sea walls and floodgates that couldn't stop the wall of water and above the airport where women with pink parasols on the roof signaled for help. Her helicopter even had to detour to avoid the area affected by the severely damaged nuclear plant.
On the ground Sawyer described the scene as a kind of twisted sculpture garden: The bookstore with three cars plowed into it and further down the block vehicles stacked two and three high.
The human toll is becoming increasingly apparent. Thousands are dead and for those who lived through the apocalyptic seen, surviving in its aftermath has been difficult. Two million people are without power and a half-million people have gone without water. Grocery stores are rationing the small amount of food they have as families wait for two to three hours to purchase it.
Then there are the tiniest survivors, the little kids, toddlers and infants plucked from the waters and rubble by rescue workers and raced to the arms of terrified mothers -- if they were lucky. The unlucky have no one left behind, now dependent on the care of the Red Cross in Miyagi. All are returning to a world that has been washed away, the homes, the schools, everything the children knew is no more.
Sawyer met one family that spent three nights in the car with their cat before being able to move into a shelter. For some, even after losing almost everything it's not too early to begin the cleanup. Sawyer found families on one street that had come together to shovel mud and start the restoration process.
On another street a family sat outside together in a circle, sharing in the comfort of loved ones. They even offered Sawyer and her crew the small amount food they had stored up, the communal spirit of Japanese culture on full display.