When a natural disaster strikes, there are no intended victims. Only victims.
The human condition — the will to survive, the fear of death, a desire to assist the needy — rises to the surface when nature unleashes its wrath.
Whether it’s unspeakable devastation and despair in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami, or — thousands of miles and mere weeks apart — a heart-wrenching path of destruction from a series of massive tornadoes, the underlying theme is life itself.
This special gallery of coupled, similar images from Japan and the U.S. is a testament to humanity — its strengths, its weaknesses and their intersection with its undeniable will to move forward.
Japan: A woman reacts at the news of her relative’s death in an evacuation shelter for survivors of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.
United States: Cullman resident Angela Gray reacts as she waits for help on the steps of the Cullman County Courthouse in Cullman, Ala., Thursday, April 28, 2011. Gray’s home was destroyed by a tornado that hit the town.
Japan: A man searches through the rubble at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, Monday, April 4, 2011.
United States: Residents search through what is left of their homes Thursday, April 28, 2011 after a tornado hit Pleasant Grove just west of downtown Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday afternoon.
Image OneEugene Hoshiko, FileAssociated PressImage TwoThe Times Daily, Jim Hannon, FileAssociated Press
Japan: Dolls for displaying on the girls’ festival day are placed after being found in the rubble at the earthquake and tsunami devastated area in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, Thursday, March 31, 2011.
United States: A doll lies in the rubble of a Phil Campbell, Ala. home that was destroyed by a tornado on Thursday, April 28, 2011.
Japan: A survivor watches the destroyed site with a ship sitting in a residential neighborhood after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, Wednesday, March 30, 2011.
United States: Residents search through what is left of their homes after a tornado hit Pleasant Grove just west of downtown Birmingham yesterday afternoon on Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Birmingham, Ala.
Japan: A woman searches through the rubble of her home destroyed in Friday’s powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, northern Japan, Sunday, March 13, 2011.
United States: Laura Yerby helps clear through the wreckage of a neighbor’s home on Recreation Area Road near the Eagle Cove Marina in Peterson, Ala. on Monday May 2, 2011. Two people lost their lives in the neighborhood.
Japan: A man talks on his cell phone as he sits on a sofa among the rubble in the area devastated by March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the town of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Saturday, April 23, 2011.
United States: Billy Hughey sits in what is left of his living room floor which was destroyed by Wednesdays, tornado near Tanner, Ala. on Thursday, April 28, 2011.
Japan: An elderly Japanese woman searches for her belongings in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-destroyed town of Rikuzentakata, northeastern Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011.
United States: Loretta Williams looks over the remains of her mothers tornado ravaged home in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, April 29, 2011. Her mother, two sons and a daughter survived the tornado by hiding in a closet.
Japan: A woman holding her dog reacts after evacuating following a tsunami warning in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan, Monday, March 14, 2011, three days after a powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the country’s east coast.
United States: Andy Page cries as he sits with his cat, Ellie, placed in a pet carrier, in his demolished apartment in Trenton, Ga. Thursday, April 28, 2011, after overnight storms hit the North Georgia and Chattanooga, Tenn. area. Page has several cats and Ellie was the last one he was looking for.
Japan: Sufferers walk through a devastated urban area in Minami Sanriku, Miyagi, northern Japan Sunday, March 13, 2011 after Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.
United States: People walk down Magnolia Lane after a tornado touched down in Concord, Ala., outside of Hueytown late Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The damage in the area is extensive with homes and businesses destroyed and people injured.
Image OneKyodo News, FileAssociated PressImage TwoRogelio V. Solis, FileAssociated Press
Japan: A wooden cross stands tall among the rubble at a place where a church once stood at Kesennuma, a port town smashed by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in northeastern Japan, on Sunday April 24, 2011.
United States: An Easter cross stands before the remains of the Smithville Baptist Church in Smithville, Miss., Thursday, April 28, 2011, following a tornado touchdown Wednesday afternoon that destroyed much of the small community and caused at least 14 deaths.
Japan: Toshiko Suda, 63, right, and her husband Michio Suda, 64, wait to load their few remaining belongings into a truck on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, at the site of their home and seaweed business which was destroyed by the tsunami on March 11, in the town of Minamisanriku, northeastern Japan.
United States: Francine Rollins and Rondrka Long sit amidst the rubble of what was once their neighborhood, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Massive tornadoes tore a town-flattening streak across the South, killing at least 266 people in six states and forcing rescuers to carry some survivors out on makeshift stretchers of splintered debris.