Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Earthquakes Are No Respecter of Persons

I was driving down Papanui Road and saw this house being demolished. It was one of those huge houses, in Merivale. Merivale, yes, it's just like the name sounds, posh. The houses are beautiful, or in the case of a few, were beautiful. The demolishing company was on that site, as I passed, I saw rubble and antiques, all combined in the macabre mixture that an earthquake creates. The owner of that particular million dollar house had been interviewed on television. The house, once beautifully done and full of period antiques, was felled with all the contents.

It is, you remember, a pain I understand. I did not live in a million dollar house, the furniture that I owned was not period antiques (though I had some lovely antique pieces). But I think most everything in that house was special. Okay, maybe the Tupperware wasn't special, and I had a few bits of clothing that I no longer even liked and wondered why I bothered buying in the first place. But I have travelled around the world, and I am, by nature, a storyteller, so nearly everything I owned, had a story. Okay, so now you know that if you had visited me before the earthquake, you would have seen some interesting, but not overly expensive things, and been bored by a story. But don't worry, it's almost all gone now. My major story now is, 'I bought this after the earthquake.'

I'm classically middle class, the sort of woman who is completely average. I'm so average, that if you put me up beside ordinary, I'd make it look special. It didn't matter on the day of the earthquake. The houses of the wealthy, the poor and the average, ordinary, middle class, lay broken in this city.

As I drive around the city, venturing out through the traffic to find which roads I think I can tolerate, I am saddened by the businesses lost. I think of those people, who must be worried about what the future has for them. The little dairy and the Chinese Take Away not far from my old house in the Eastern Suburbs. Those two places where hit hard by the September event, how they worked to get things back into place, only to be hit again. I see the same story written on so many corners around Christchurch. The broken buildings say more than just damage, they speak of fear, of uncertainty, and of pain.

Surely I am not the only one who reads that same story in the faces of those poor central city business owners. Some of those people are wealthy, city property owners, and some just small business people. It doesn't really make a difference, when an earthquake takes all you have. I watched the news with horror as they attempted to enter the red zone in the city and were fought off. Is not that anger, really just fear of the future? Where are the leaders of our city, or country, the sons and daughters of Christchurch (or Auckland or Dunedin) to put a hand on the arm of these poor people, sit down with a cuppa and reach an agreement that gives them peace?

Peace is hard to find in the aftermath of an earthquake. The land itself continues to shake, the roads and buildings are constant reminders of what has happened, personal life is uncertain and rumours of squabbles and politicizing concerning the rebuilding of city increase insecurity. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, an Earthquake takes everything, including peace, from everyone.


  1. I wish it did not take something so terrible to remind people that we are not "the rich" or "the poor" or "the middle class," but all human. I think the stories of people rising above their base prejudices and biases and reaching out and helping others during terrible, life altering disasters are among the most beautiful stories we have to tell.

    This is what your post made me think of.

  2. Lovely, thought provoking post as ever, Barb