On Friday, March 11, Elliott June Rutledge was born at 1:56 p.m. in Tokyo, Japan. Fifty minutes later, the earth began to shake. While living in Japan for almost two years, feeling small earthquakes had become routine to John, BBA '05, MAcc '05, and Cayce Couch Rutledge, BBA '04. But this wasn't a typical Tokyo tremor.
When most new moms are experiencing the joy and peace just after a child arrives, Cayce and her family were caught in a moment of panic. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake -- the fourth-largest on record -- had an intensity level few people in human history have ever experienced. Cayce was recovering from C-section, with the elevators shut down and Elliott resting in the nursery three floors away.
"The room started shaking, and nurses ran to open all the doors to keep them from getting jammed, "recalls John. "We had no idea what to do to help or protect ourselves. I had to hold on to Cayce's bed in order to stay standing, and I tried to cover her as best I could. We had no idea where Elliott was, but the nurses were very supportive. Within a few minutes they got into contact with the nursery and finally knew she was okay."
Fortunately, everyone in the hospital was okay, including mother and child, who were soon reunited through an old service elevator, the only one still working.
In the days that followed, as the situation in Japan reached higher levels of uncertainty, the Rutledges needed to make a decision. They weighed the risks of staying against the risks of traveling halfway across the world with a days-old infant. The family, including Cayce's parents and sister, Nicole, who had just arrived from Texas, sat down to pray.
"After we prayed, we stopped worrying about all the things we needed to do and trusted that God would provide what we needed," says John. "While things were still crazy and stressful, there was an element of peace that was not there before. Things just started falling into place. It was amazing to watch as obstacle after obstacle fell away in ways we could not have imagined. We got a passport for Elliott in five hours. We got plane tickets for six people on a nearly-full plane. We packed our place of necessities in two hours, all with a five-day-old and on very little sleep."
"Usually it takes scheduling an appointment two weeks in advance to get a passport, but we were able to get one for Elliott" less than 24 hours before their plane was scheduled to depart, Cayce remembers.
That night, the family of six, along with 17 pieces of luggage, spent the night in a one-bed airport hotel room. Upon their arrival in Dallas the next day, St. Patrick's Day, the Rutledges made the national news.
"A Fox News reporter was waiting to speak with people arriving from Japan, and he noticed our extended family and friends with signs welcoming Elliott home," says Cayce.
On April 9, John returned to his job in Tokyo for a few weeks to finish up some projects. The Rutledges have since moved back to the Dallas area, where John continues to work as a senior associate for PwC.