A teenage boy, who thought he lost everything in last year's devastating tsunami, just found out that his one-prized possession— a soccer ball survived after it floated over 3,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean all the way to Alaska.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the ball with the 16-year old's name inscribed on it is one of the first pieces of debris from the March 11, 2011 tsunami to start washing up on North American shores.
A man found the ball while beachcombing on an Alaskan island, and his wife, who is Japanese, spoke with the ball's owner, Misaki Murakami, by phone over the weekend.
No, the ball's name is not Wilson.
David and Yumi Baxter said they would send the ball back to the young man. Murakami, from the town of Rikuzentakata, said he was surprised and thankful for the return of something so meaningful.
Murakami's family lost everything in the destructive tsunami which washed away large chunks of Japan's northern coast and killed 19,000 people.
The ball, which had messages of encouragement written on it, was given to Murakami in 2005 as a goodbye gift when he was transferred to another school.
Debris from the disaster initially formed a big mass in the Pacific but has now spread out across the ocean. The NOAA said currents would carry most of the debris to the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Washington, and Oregon between March 2013 and march 2014.
The Baxters plan to visit Japan in May but will get the ball to Murakami by mail. They are reluctant to hand the ball over in person because they don't want to create a commotion, David Baxter said.
The happy teen told the couple he was grateful for "taking the time to even find him," said Baxter.
One man's piece of beach flotsam turned out to be another young man's only memento of his past.