Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Strange, Disheartening and Marvelous.

Earthquakes produce some real oddities. People act so strangely. I think most of us struggle to stay sane, and our minds are not necessarily well connected to our actions. But some of the weird stuff is well thought out. Most difficult for me is the earthquake advertisements.

After the September 4th earthquake, the advertisements were out in a matter of days. "Dear Christchurch, we are sorry for your distressing time," the radio announcement says,"but the XXX Mall is opened for you shopping needs." On the side of the truck, "Earthquake Building Repairs Ltd. Call XXXX"

It's taken a little longer, but it's all started again. We can have the computers broken by earthquake repaired by a shop advertising all the components we might need for that kind of destruction. Our property, you must understand needs to be evaluated by Earthquake Valuers. Aren't we lucky? Did the earthquake shatter your glass, well guess who is ready to take care of all your Earthquake insurance forms? I suppose business must go on, especially since so many businesses are either out of commission for the short-term, or worse, for good.

Life after an earthquake can be truly disheartening. Even if you haven't suffered loss, life has intensified. Traffic, queues, business closures, water, lumpy-bumpy streets all make life difficult. The daily report of workers laid off, factories too broken to operate, some companies moving on, is discouraging. Listening to the news as they give the identities of victims, or tell us how difficult it is to identify badly wounded victims can make me cry.

I think, for many Cantabrians, today was another very distressing day. It was just announced that the Rugby World Cup games were stripped from Christchurch. Now I'm not a rugby fan, but even I feel low about this. I, like most here, understand. We have few nice hotels operating, and no city restaurants, bars or cafes. The suburban services are already stretched providing for those who live here. What pre and post game activities can Christchurch offer Rugby fans. Though we understand, it is still tough. Our Mayor, Bob Parker, said it well. Christchurch is facing a long hard winter, it would have brightened our spirits to look to the Rugby World Cup in the spring.

Yet out of the desperate days also emerges moments that are wonderful. Those university students (a large percentage of which have remained in the city and are starting back to classes under extremely difficult circumstances) have a new university cafe. Like the new lecture rooms, the cafe is in a tent. It's name is Canvas Cafe, In Tent City 6.3. What a laugh! Yes, we still laugh at our earthquake, sometimes while shivering.

The bond created in this city by this horrible experience, is something I would not want to have missed out on. I was in a shop today when a loud groaning noise started. It mimicked the sound of some aftershocks. Myself and a couple of ladies jumped, then laughed. We were soon chatting about earthquake experience and feelings about aftershocks. We share something beyond ourselves that binds us in a strange way.

These marvelous moments are not big. We wanted one of those truly marvelous experiences after the earthquake, I think the whole city wanted it. We wanted one of those survival stories, someone to be pulled out alive after days had gone by. We didn't get that in Christchurch. I love it now, when the stories emerge from Japan, but it didn't happen for us. Yet, we had something, our Christchurch miracle, a great moment.

It took time to stabilized the Cathedral enough to allow the Search and Rescue Teams to go in and search the rubble. If you have ever been to Christchurch, you will understand that the Cathedral is an iconic image in this city. It stands in the square, one of the great buildings that represent the age and place of Christchurch in the history of this country. You don't have to be a believer, to understand that the Cathedral is important. Most children in Christchurch will have made a school trip to see the building at some point, even if just at Christmas to put a charity gift under the huge Christmas tree. And if you shop in the city, you may have had lunch in its shade or made it your meeting place.

Within a hour of the February 22nd earthquake, someone said to me, "I heard the Cathedral fell." It was symbolic of the city's devastation. Soon the news broke that 22 bodies were lying in the rubble. There had been people visiting, of course, it was lunchtime. Some had gone up the tower. Why they knew the number, I don't know.

On March 5th, when the rescue teams were finally allowed to go in, and the announcement was made that no one was found under the Cathedral was a marvelous day. (The dean of the Cathedral cried, well I guess I did too.) A miracle, some say. I don't know, probably. The same marvelous miracle that occurs every evening when I sit down to dinner and all my family is safe and well. Miracle or not, it was marvelous for our city. And we hang on to every marvelous moment, great and small, with all our might.

1 comment:

  1. That's such a shame about the rugby World Cup - you're right, it's good to have something to look forward to. So, instead, look forward to the promise of renewal in the Spring and enjoy the new closeness you have with your fellows. As far as the cathedral story - I can't think of a bigger triumph than to anticipate 22 dead and find none!! That is, indeed, a blessing.

    You are a marvel Bee - I love reading your blog. You put a very human, and lovable, face on the events so very far away.