CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 11, 2016) -- Nearly 300 Zama American High School students paid tribute to victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami during a ceremony held March 8 on the school's football field.

"The students and faculty came together to show our love and care for the people of Japan in remembrance of the horrific earthquake they suffered back in 2011," said Gregg Mowen, EdD, principal of ZAHS.

A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck March 11, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. off the northeastern coast of Japan's mainland causing widespread damage on land and a series of tsunami waves that devastated many coastal areas of the Tohoku region, according to Encyclopedia Britannica's website. The tsunami also instigated a major, nuclear accident at a power station along the coast.

These events resulted in an estimated total of 20,000 killed or listed as missing.

The remembrance ceremony began with a formation of Japan's flag on the football field.

Seniors wearing red tops formed a red circle on the 50-yard line and underclassmen in white tops surrounded the circle to form a rectangle, completing a human flag of Japan.

Japan and America's national anthems were played by the high school band followed by a moment of silence in honor of Japan and its victims of 3/11.

Mowen said this was the first time ZAHS conducted a ceremony in honor of Japan's earthquake victims.

The idea came from Carla Cardenas, vice president of ZAHS Parent-Teacher Organization, and her son, Lorenzo Cardenas, junior at ZAHS, who shared their experiences with the audience of being in Japan during 3/11.

"Five years ago I was coming home from school on a Friday at 2:46 p.m.," said Lorenzo. "The ground started to shake and what seemed like forever lasted six minutes."

Lorenzo continued on to speak about his peers coming together in unity for Japan and learning from the events of 3/11.

"So today we come together to form a human flag for our host nation and friends," he said. "Let us reflect and learn from Japan to be brave, strong and keep hope."

Cardenas, who lost her mother a year ago on 3/11, said the greatest lesson from 3/11 is to have empathy to understand and share another person's experience and emotions, especially a loss.

"This day was already in my heart but now it has double meaning," she said. "We grieve for the lives that left us five years ago."

Mowen said ZAHS plans to continue remembering 3/11 in years to come.