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Picking Possessions From Ruins, Some Find New Priorities

January 20, 1995

KOBE, Japan (AP) _ Sifting through the ruins of his parents’ house, Michio Kayagiru slowly accumulated a small pile of possessions.

``We’re only taking the most important things,″ the young man said quietly, fingering a family portrait.

Kayagiru, a Tokyo securities trader, came down to help his parents gather a few items from the house they had lived in since his childhood. Books, photos and clothing were scattered in the driveway.

``Most of it doesn’t matter,″ he said. ``At least my parents are alive.″

All over the city’s quake-wrecked center, families returned to homes flattened by shaking and swept by flames, trying to salvage something of their old lives.

Twenty-nine-year-old Hiroko Ura, whose house was damaged but still standing, found a black-and-white photo of her grandmother, taken three decades ago, and a wedding picture of her sister.

Down the street, Tsunemi Harada was checking her grandparents’ house. They escaped when the quake struck, and sent her back three days later to try to find their bankbooks.

She did, but was heartsick over another loss.

``It looks like a thief came into the wreckage and stole my grandmother’s kimonos,″ she said. ``That’s a low blow.″

Railway worker Shozo Umeike, 45, stood in the center of a pile of twisted lumber. His work was just beginning.

``This is the main thing to find right now!″ he said, smiling as he pointed to his dust mask.

Forty-five-year-old Kazumichi Kawabata’s search was only half-hearted. He was overwhelmed by sadness over his daughter, killed in the quake.

Kawabata was searching for his driver’s license and other documents, but he didn’t much care if he found them.

``The most important thing, I can’t get,″ he said. ``That’s the voice of my daughter.″

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