For nearly three years, English teacher Taylor Anderson, 24, had worked and played with Japanese youth in Ishinomaki city, a coastal town in Miyagi prefecture. When the earthquake hit March 11, she reportedly was seen helping people get to higher ground, and later apparently took off on her bike in the direction of her home. That's when the tsunami came. Ten days later, rescue workers recovered her body.
Anderson's family said in a statement that the U.S. Embassy in Japan called them Monday to tell them she had been found in Ishinomaki.
Anderson could be the first known American victim in the Japan disaster as authorities continue the daunting task of finding and identifying almost 13,000 people believed to be missing.
Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Japan and the State Department could not immediately confirm whether she's the first known U.S. victim in Japan. A 25-year-old man is presumed dead after being swept into the ocean March 11 by a swell from the tsunami on the northern California coast.
"We would like to thank all those whose prayers and support have carried us through this crisis," said Andy and Jean Anderson, who live in Chesterfield County south of Richmond. "Please continue to pray for all who remain missing and for the people of Japan. We ask that that you respect our privacy during this hard time."
Friends and relatives used Facebook and other social networks to spread the word about the search for Anderson. Officials first told the family last Tuesday that their daughter had been located, but the Andersons learned that night that the information was incorrect.
Anderson had a lifelong love of Japan and began studying the language in middle school. She moved overseas after graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 2008 to teach in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. She taught in eight schools in Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture on Japan's northeast coast. During her stay there she developed a love for her students and for the Japanese people, her mother said.
She was scheduled to return to the United States in August.
With reporting from Doualy Xaykaothao in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan, and material from The Associated Press.