Once the shaking stopped, Dapper went in search of her daughter, Jayden, 7.
“I ran down 25 flights of stairs with a 5-year-old on my back, trying to find my 7-year-old who I thought was in the elevator,” she said.
Dapper instead found Jayden at school across the street. They'd just been reunited when a 6.0 magnitude aftershock rocked the school. A tsunami warning was issued and she stayed with her two daughters inside the school for more than two hours until they were allowed to leave, she said.
Dapper, who had been a flight attendant for eight years, said she left Tokyo two days later and moved to Washington. She had been going to counseling twice a week before she started suffering from panic attacks in May 2010. Dapper said she'd experienced turbulence and other unsettling events on airplanes, but developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the quake.
“When you're in something that major, like an 8.1 earthquake, you really do know that fear of dying,” Dapper said.
“I grew up in Oklahoma, so we decided to come back here and buy a house. I woke up to that (the 4.7 magnitude earthquake) the other night and thought, ‘We just had an earthquake.'”
But the 5.6 earthquake struck later that day.
“I was holding my breath and I could feel the surge of energy through my body. I started feeling like I was going to have a panic attack, but I talked myself out of it. When they said only minor damage was reported and no injuries, it soothed me a bit,” Dapper said.
Her husband still works in Japan and is only home 10 days of the month while she takes care of her two girls, now ages 6 and 8, at their Oklahoma City home.
“I thought I would go back in three months, but I just couldn't,” she said.
“I thought I only had to worry about tornadoes when I moved back,” Dapper said.
CONTRIBUTING: Jim Beckel, staff photographer