A decade has passed since shifting tectonic plates released a 9.1-magnitude earthquake 70 km off the Pacific coast of Japan, creating a tsunami that inundated Tohoku and flooded the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which led to the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.

Hundreds of thousands of people were directly impacted by the catastrophe: lives lost, lives uprooted, livelihoods destroyed. Millions more have had to make sense of the events of that day, to understand the failures that turned a natural disaster into one of the worst crises of modern Japan.

As we commemorate those losses, we must also remember the heroes of that day and those that followed, men and women who scrambled to combat an unfolding catastrophe, putting their own lives in danger — and in some cases, making the ultimate sacrifice.