Christchurch Cathedral (before), by Kirsty Helen Dunn
New Zealand kids learn at primary school what to do in an earthquake. I remember an exhilarating and terrifying shake when I was about 11; Little Brother and I home alone clutching each other in a doorway. When I moved to Welly the shakes were common place, its was easy to become indifferent to an almost daily event. And it was always going to be Welly that got the ‘big one’; the coastal port with an airport built on reclaimed swampland would effectively cut us off from the rest of the country. Glass from skyscrapers would shatter, deadly to those below. We pay our earthquake insurance levies, bottled water sits under office desks, families develop their emergency plan.
And every now and then there would be a decent tremor with that sickening sway that can cause an ardent atheist to lean into prayer.
But it was Christchurch; the flat sprawling town, modeled on its Kentish namesake that took the brunt force of mother nature. These images show just how devastating this quake has been. South Islanders pride themselves on being a stoic lot*; they would not appreciate gushing pride, but the grim determination on office workers turned rescuers, who are risking their own lives to save others; just doing what they can with no training to deal with the physical or mental anguish makes me tear up. Air New Zealand with a history of awesomeness put on special fares. At midnight Tuesday NZ, Wednesday was booked out but people can fly with 2 bags from Christchurch to Auckland or Wellington on Thursday for just $NZD48 one way. BBC Radio 4 cut live to Radio New Zealand Morning Report as I was driving home tonight; world class public radio right there. The Christchurch Press was printed today. Incredible.
12,000 miles away I am so grateful for the internet reassuring me that the people I love are ok. That their families are safe. Mostly there is relief and thankfulness.
Tonight I am also holding hope for an old school friend who has a loved one in the Pyne Gold Guinness building. We weren’t that close back at Girls High, but our lives have followed similar trajectories and she is only a few hundred miles from me now. It’s amazing to me how a few ‘likes’ on photos and the odd comment on a status update, can open the door for more meaningful messages and connection when the time calls.
Update from Facebook this morning: ‘I just wanted to let you know Sarah that they have called off the search at the PGG building and have not found my friend Estelle. They have sent in sniffer dogs, used heat/motion detectors but there is no sign of life. They think that it will be a long time before they can get in there and retrieve bodies. The area where they think she was, was badly affected so I guess we can only hope that it happened fast. Her family have been told that they should prepare for the worse and have gone home. Thanks for your kind words and support. Its just not fair. I am completely devastated.’
*Update on this story can be read here.