A grim and personal reminder of the thousands of lives lost in last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan is drifting toward the West Coast -- shoes.
Some in pairs, some individual, shoes of all sizes and types are now washing up on the beaches of Washington and Canada.
This week two shoes were found along Washington's Long Beach, where dozens of other items swept away by the March 11, 2011 tsunami have also made landfall.
Local disaster preparedness trainer Jackie Sheldon and her family have discovered many of those items. It was her daughter and grandchildren who came upon the shoes one mile north of the Cranberry Beach Approach. First one athletic shoe, and then the other just a short distance apart.
"[It] made it even more clear that the shoes were from the tsunami as they were covered in barnacles," Sheldon said. Click here for YouTube video of the discovery.
Pieces of tsunami debris once touched by humans have a haunting effect on those who find them. But shoes may have been actually worn by some of the tsunami victims.
"She felt they were, more than likely, from someone's feet who died in the tsunami," said Sheldon. "So many times it is the small things that really tell the story, as with the shoes."
Because of their rubber soles, shoes have stayed afloat while drifting across the Pacific Ocean for the last year.
On the Canadian island of Haida Gwaii, where some beaches have essentially turned into landfills of tsunami debris, piles of shoes are set aside by beachcombers.
Sheldon, who has lived in Long Beach since 1981, often drives along the beach to and from work. She has noticed more debris in the tides in just the last few weeks.
"I know the beach like the back of my hand," she said. "I am very concerned about the tsunami debris."
Also found on Long Beach this month were pieces of a boat cast out to sea. The owner was tracked down by the Japanese Consulate and said he does not want it back. The boat may remain at Cape Disappointment State Park as part of a local memorial.
Figures for how many people died in the earthquake and tsunami aren't clear as thousands of victims are still considered missing, but officials estimate it around 15,000.
Washington's Department of Ecology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have taken the lead on tracking the flow of debris. NOAA set up an email for beachcombers to notify authorities: DisasterDebris@noaa.gov
Volunteers are needed for a beach clean up event on Thursday, July 5 in Long Beach. All are welcome to attend, meeting up at any main beach approach on the Long Beach Peninsula at 9:30 a.m. Tools for the clean up will be provided. Volunteers may sign up the day of the event.