FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The news of a massive tsunami striking the coast of Japan hit Joan Greene, of Fort Worth, like a punch in the stomach. “An emotional gut punch,” she said.

Her 27-year-old daughter, Jessica Fleming, was right in the middle of the devastation.

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Jessica was working as an English teacher in the city of Sendai. “All I knew was Sendai was 81 miles from the epicenter and that’s where she worked,” said Greene.

Despite the help of friends, no one could reach Jessica over the phone or online.

“It’s almost a cruel joke that you can get pictures instantly of the devastation and what’s happening – but you can’t contact them. It’s torturous,” Greene said of her wait.

With no word from her daughter, Greene’s birthday passed Saturday with little celebration and little sleep.

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“If I let myself think about what I was feeling, it was just too scary,” said Greene.

Then, finally, Sunday morning, an e-mail arrived. “Mom, it’s Jess… I love you and I’m okay,” read Greene. The relieved mother said, “That’s all I needed to know. That’s the best birthday present I could have got.”

In a short message, Jessica let her mother know she was safe at the home of her boyfriend’s family, where electricity had just been restored.

Despite her worry Greene said, “I felt the whole time that she was alive.”

For the first time in days, the North Texas mom is finally able to relax.
But she knows there are others, who are not so lucky.

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“My heart goes out to all the people out there still waiting,” she said with encouragement. “I know what they’re going through.”