Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Only Thing Harder Than Going Through an Earthquake is Not Being There.

After both earthquakes, as soon as the dust started to settle, I had one thing I needed to do. I needed to make contact with my mother overseas. On September 4th, the earthquake that hit at 4:30 am, I got to my daughter's flat mid-morning and though the telephone lines were useless, I was able to contact my sister via facebook and get her to tell my mother I was okay. As it turned out, my mother had been at the dentist all day and hadn't even heard the news about the earthquake, till she heard if from my sister saying I was fine. I was worrying about her worrying, and she didn't even know.

February 22nd the scale was so much larger. Hitting us in the middle of the day, there was the sheer complication of reaching our children on the ground first. The impact in the city was so much the greater, no power, telephone lines over-run and not working well anyway. It was a mess. There was simply no way to get a hold of my mother for hours. It was days before I was able to speak to her in person. In fact, I had to talk to someone in Auckland and get him to update friends and family overseas about things here. I know it was hard for them to have us here and not to be able to help us.

On that second earthquake, there was someone else not here, my daughter, Rosee.

Rosee called me on my cell phones just minutes after the earthquake stopped. I thought it had already hit the news, it hadn't. She felt the shake in Dunedin and wondered if it was one off Christchurch again. We were already in the car, heading out to get our littlest, Maddee. I hung up and was trying to call out to find my older children, the cell phones weren't working. Rosee called back, she had made contact with Molly-Rose. As the afternoon progressed, Rosee was able to keep us informed on one another. For some strange reason, she could reach us, while we could not call each other.

Within days, I was talking Rosee out of coming home. We understood the frustration she was feeling. She was helpless down there, but truth is, we were helpless up here too. We could scrape ourselves up, run into that dangerous house to get a few things, boil water, and not flush our toilets, but we could do nothing for those poor people in the city centre. Rosee had to get on with life, attend her classes and do what uni students do. We had to find a new home. It was frustrating for her down there, but I knew that helpless feeling wouldn't go away just by coming home.

She did come home this past weekend. With the major part of the crisis past, and things settling into the new and difficult pattern that has become life, it was good for her to come and be here. She needed to see her family. She needed to experience her ruined city. It was hard for her to go again. Strange to leave her family in 'just coping mode'.

It's as hard to be away from here as it is to be here.


  1. I can't even imagine that, Bee. All it takes is a snowstorm to set me worry about my 2 girls, no earthquake in sight, and they're safe and sound. I'm so glad I can sympathize with you but not empathize!

    Thinking of you....G

  2. That's a scary set of moments to live through - I remember when 9/11 happened, I spent hours worrying about my dad in NY.

    Sometimes all this communication technology is bad, taking us away from actual face to face interaction, but then it comes into it's own with disasters like earthquakes - we're able to find out if our loved ones are safe quickly, rather than dying inside from the stress of worrying!


  3. I'm glad Rosee got to visit with you. After Ivan, Chuck and An begged to come home, but I didn't want them to have to deal with what we were dealing with, plus having 2 more people to find food for when food was hard to come by just didn't make sense. They finally got to come for Thanksgiving week, just days after we finally got power, and we of course shocked at what the island looked like. That was 2 months after the storm when life was finally getting back into a kind of routine.

    It is hard for those away from you during a tragedy, but the very BEST they can do is pray without ceasing for you.