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Man Survives Boston Marathon & Texas Plant Explosions, Needs to Google Tsutomu Yamaguchi

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on April 18, 2013

Fate, destiny, chance, luck, karma.

As much as we take comfort in controlling our lives, being Masters of our Universe, sometimes there are moments when we must collectively admit that much of our lives are governed by the fleeting whims of randomness.

Nobody knows this right now quite like Joe Berti. The AP:

A bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon seconds after Berti finished the race. Two days later, he was in his home state of Texas when he saw a fertilizer plant explode near Waco.

“I was just like, ‘I can’t believe this!'” said Berti, who said he had never witnessed an explosion before. Then he thought: “I just want to get out of here and get away from all these explosions.”

But Berti, as it turns out, is far from unlucky. Instead, he feels fortunate. He left both tragedies unscathed, while members of his running group and his wife — who was closer to the Boston explosion than he was — were also unhurt.

Read the Associated Press’ story on Berti. It’s pretty amazing. The odds. The luck. The lack of luck. But recognize that he’s not alone in the world.

The Japanese government recognizes about 165 people as having been affected by both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. But only one is recognized as having survived both explosions.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi

On August 6, 1945, Nagasaki resident Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima, doing business for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Shortly after 8 am local time, the first atomic bomb fell a mile from his path on the way to the office. Shaken but alive, Yamaguchi, like a boss, made it home to Nagasaki, and he immediately returned to work. On August 9, three days after Little Boy hit Hiroshima, Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki.

Yamaguchi later died. Much, much later. In 2010. He lived to be 93.

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In July 2012, WNYC’s Radiolab produced this incredible story about gamma rays’ effect on our DNA and included Yamaguchi’s story. Listen.

Then there’s Zahrul Fuadi, who as a 39-year-old doctoral student survived his second run-in with tsunamis that killed hundreds of thousands.


In 2004, the Indonesia native was living in his home in Simpang Mesra village, Banda Aceh, with his family when a 9.3 earthquake sent a destructive tsunami ripping through his village. About 168,000 people died in that tragedy, but not Fuadi or his wife and children.

“We were at my house when the quake happened. Me, my wife and my two children escaped from the tsunami by riding a motorcycle. We went very far from my house because we were so afraid,” he said in 2011.

A year after the Aceh tsunami, Fuadi, a faculty member at Syah Kuala University, moved his family to Sendai, Japan, after receiving a scholarship offer to complete his doctorate at Tohoku University.

You can imagine where this is going. However, as luck would have it, Fuadi was spared the nightmare of fleeing a second tsunami in 2011 because the university is 20 miles inland and perched on relatively high ground. “The tremor was very strong and similar to the earthquake in Aceh. I thought a tsunami was on the way,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “I feel as if my family and I are being chased by tsunamis from Aceh to Japan. I’m more scared of tsunamis than earthquakes. I was running away from the Aceh tsunami back then and thinking that was the end of the world.”

Fuadi’s story has never been challenged, though he doesn’t have the official recognition of a government like Tsutomu Yamaguchi or the corroborated story of non-family members like Joe Berti.

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