Discuss as:

Returning to the scene nearly a year later, where a young mother searched for her son after the tsunami

Tadashi Okubo / Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters, file

Yuko Sugimoto looks at the damage caused by a tsunami and an earthquake in Ishimaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, after the magnitude 9 earthquake struck the area March 13, 2011.

Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

Yuko Sugimoto and her son Raito stand at the same place she stood on March 13, 2011 after the area was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture in northern Japan, on Feb. 22.

Reuters reports --   The young Japanese woman clutches a beige blanket tight around her shoulders as she stares into the distance. Behind her hulks twisted metal and splintered wood left by the tsunami that devastated Ishinomaki, her hometown.

The photograph, taken by Tadashi Okubo at the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, was picked up by Reuters and other agencies around the world, becoming an iconic image of the March 11 disaster that killed 20,000 people.

The woman's name is Yuko Sugimoto. She is now 29 years old.

Hiroaki Tsuda via Reuters, file

Children and teachers from Ishinomaki Mizuho No.2 kindergarten take shelter on the roof of their school during the tsunami following Japan's 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Ishinomaki, northern Japan in this photo taken by head teacher Hiroaki Tsuda with his mobile phone on March 11, 2011.

When the photo was taken, around 7 a.m. on March 13, she was looking in the direction of her son Raito's kindergarten, which was partly submerged and surrounded by piles of debris. Nearly two days after the quake she had yet to find the four-year-old.

"At that point, I thought there was only about a 50 percent chance he was alive," she recalled recently.

Reunited with her husband the next day, the two began making the rounds of evacuation centers -- first by car, then by bicycle as fuel ran out. Her husband found a boat and paddled his way towards the kindergarten, but found no one there.

It wasn't until the next day that the couple heard that their son and other children had been rescued by the military from the roof of the kindergarten the morning after the tsunami.

"When I saw Raito in the corner of a room, the next moment I was weeping so hard I couldn't see anything," Sugimoto said.

Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

Yuko Sugimoto and her son Raito pray on Feb. 22 , at the site where their pet dog was buried in the yard of their house in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

She hugged him and checked his hands, his feet, every bit of his body. She even checked his smell, to be certain it really was him. Holding him tight, she said "Thank goodness, thank goodness," over and over.

Nearly a year later, Sugimoto stood in the same place, embracing her son and smiling. Behind her, the gently sloping road was clean, with cars and trucks stopped at a traffic light.

Her smile suggests that her life is back on track, but that is not true. Though the debris was cleared much more quickly than she expected, it will take some time for Sugimoto and her family to get on with their lives.

Read the full story.

Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

Yuko Sugimoto and her son Raito walk down the staircase of Ishinomaki Mizuho No.2 kindergarten where Raito survived the earthquake and tsunami last year by evacuating to the rooftop in Ishinomaki, northern Japan, on Feb. 22.