Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two Degrees of Seperation

As a city we've spent almost 6 months pulling ourselves, our lives & our city back together only to see it all destroyed in a matter of seconds.

5 3/4 months ago I called the first earthquake, not a tragedy, but an inconvenience. I got annoyed at friends that bemoaned breakages & damage. I told them that we were fortunate & so incredibly blessed because no lives had been lost. I wish beyond anything I could ever have imagined that I could say the same this time.

To go out among it is heartbreaking enough on it's own. It's a strange & heartbreaking sight, but then this city known for it's old Gothic revival buildings, beautiful parks, rivers & English beauty is now full of unimaginable sights.
Last time, after a short while of mourning the forever changed landscape, I could find the positive in what was left & be grateful for the old buildings & churches that have survived with little or no damage. Now I am struggling to do that.
How can you do that with a death toll that stands at 147 with 200 still missing?

On the afternoon of the 22nd February this city & the lives of everyone in it changed, irrevocably, for the worse. I knew without one iota of doubt when that sucker hit that this was going to be bad. I was shocked when I finally made contact with the outside world 30 minutes later to discover that it was only 6.3 magnitude as it had felt in every way so much bigger & more violent that the first one & I'd been sure in my mind that it was an 8-9 magnitude.

I can't really describe the hours that followed as just small bit's of information trickled in while I was out searching for a daughter that I knew had left school early only 20 minutes before the quake hit, then later trying to get to my Mothers over broken bridges & roads because I couldn't contact her. But later on that night when the power came on down at my Aunts place & we turned on TV the full shock & horror of just how bad it was hit home.

As I've said in many emails & messages over the past couple of days in a country that only has around two degree's of separation, instead of the usual six degree's, it was only a matter of time before we would be affected by the loss of someone we knew or knew of. The same will go for most in this city.

But this isn't just Christchurch's tragedy - it's international. Japan has 26 students missing, China 20, the Phillipines 14, 2 South Koreans & 6 from Thailand. It's thought that there are deceased & missing from over 20 countries. How on earth do you deal with that? Not just the people you know - but visitors that came to New Zealand, to Christchurch, by choice to study English perhaps or work in a country that was safer or the pay better. There are parents, children & families all around the world that are holding out hope that fades daily or already grieving. This all just breaks my heart.

I can find some tiny bit's of consolation in the stories that are coming to light, some extremely close to me, of near misses. A missed appointment in one of the buildings that collapsed or a detour that meant someone was late getting back to work in another, but they don't make the losses any less significant or heartbreaking.

To others the damage & loss of homes is a very real & immediate problem. Areas that escaped very lightly in the first Earthquake got hit hard this time & area's that got hit hard the first time have been hit again with even more velocity & damage.
With the September earthquake, because of where the fault line was, the hill suburbs avoided damage & most of the impact was felt by those to the South of the city,  in the city & the Eastern suburbs.

Five & 3/4 months of cleaning, making do, waiting & dealing with the EQC & insurance companies ensued, people got tired. Rules changed - so did what people had originally been told. The elderly especially wanted to know what was happening & how long it would take. Lets face it, some won't be around by the time their homes are replaced or repaired.

Now the suburbs that were hit the hardest last time have been hit hard again, roads damaged beyond belief & more homes damaged beyond repair. The hill suburbs have taken a huge hit with houses extensively damaged or destroyed by rock falls. Five days in & a lot of them  still have neither power or water. This also means that many of them have no real idea of the utter disaster in the Central Business District. They may have heard bits & pieces but that is completely different to actually seeing the devastation.

I have 49 years invested in this city, it may not be where I'd like to live the rest of my life, but it is as much a part of me as the blood that runs through my veins. The images I've seen stun me, each time it is like a physical blow to the chest - I can only imagine what they will do to the elderly that are perhaps ill prepared to deal with it.

I live in a little pocket that is seemingly untouched - yet I only have to walk as far as the end of my street to see the signs of liquefaction, a 5 minute walk up the road & around a corner & it is like a different planet, another 500 meters away in the opposite direction & the power is still another subdivision around the age of this one that has suffered structural damage to many of it's homes. It beggars belief.

My family are all safe & well & I live in a small subdivision that is appears to be untouched.I've seen this referred to as luck - but do I feel lucky? No, I feel blessed, but also very conflicted. 

I see the hurt & the loss of others & feel so useless, it feels selfish to be happy about what I have got. Part of me wants to get in the car & drive as fast & far as I can away from here - but would I leave now if I could? No!! I want to reach out & help everyone that's hurting in some way, but all I can do is offer to share the safe haven & facilities we have here with whoever needs them or be supportive to people who need support in any way I can. But somehow it isn't enough. I want to do more & don't know what more to do.

It eases the heart a little to see the overwhelming International support. Teams of experts in all fields have flown in from  7 countries to do a job that few of us would want do, putting their lives at risk in the process. The 55 strong British search & rescue team, last deployed in Haiti, brought with them 11 tonnes of specialist equipment - mind boggling! Australia, the USA, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore have sent teams & support people to work alongside our NZ Police & Search & Rescue teams.

The NZ Military is putting every man it can on the job over & above the 1000 strong contingent that were already in the area from all around the country preparing  to leave on a Military exercise when the earthquake hit. It's humbling.
It's also reassuring to know that we have the best the world has to offer here at this time. Thank you world.

Please understand that the people of this city are bewildered & in some part scared. There are so many questions about the future that right now simply can't be answered. We have to get through the 'now'.Nothing in this city makes much sense any more. Soon enough the world will have other problems & media will move on & focus on the next news worthy issue. For those of us who live here, those that call Christchurch home, this is a luxury we don't have.

Broken lives, broken hearts, broken roads & broken homes - but not ever broken spirits. 
Kia Kaha - Forever Strong. That is Canterbury!

The UC Student Volunteer Army, organised by a University of Canterbury student to go out to the suburbs & help with cleaning up the silt & whatever needs doing.


rosebud101 said...

Deb, this brings tears to my eyes. You are so strong and brave. Hang in there! Just know that you are loved and prayers are flying up to heaven for you, your family, and all of Christchurch. May you be blessed.

NexusMaille said...

Deb, what you have described is unimaginable to me, which shows just how lucky I have been. I wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post in the craziness. It is important for we out in the rest of the world to be able to hear from you, to empathise and mourn with you, and hopefully to share in some small triumphs. I'm so relieved your mum and daughter are OK.