One year ago today, my hometown Christchurch was devastated by a massive earthquake. The damage likely wouldn’t have been as severe if the infrastructure hadn’t already been weakened in the first earthquake measuring 7.1 on the 4th of September 2010.
You never think this can happen to your city. Earthquakes happen in other parts of the world. When the first one hit in September, I was in disbelief- my brain telling me this couldn’t be happening, even while the room was shaking around me.
The February earthquake was unexpected. It was technically an aftershock from the September earthquake, but it did much more damage since it was very shallow. It was a Tuesday, kids were at school, people were at work or grabbing some lunch in the middle of town. Then at 12.51pm it struck, burying people under rubble, as buildings collapsed and co-workers, friends, and families looked on in horror. 185 people died that day, and as I sit here in San Diego, I feel both relief that no one I know lost their lives, and sadness for the families and friends of those who did.
After the September earthquake, we were all upset about the damage done to our beautiful city, but we were lucky enough that it hit in the early hours of the morning and no one died. In February, we were given a new perspective when so many people were killed and injured. Many who died were Japanese students, studying in the CTV building, as well as people from eighteen countries from around the world.
A year ago today I was in Chicago. After receiving a hysterical call from my mother, I was trying to watch the news and contact as many friends as I could. Now as I watch the memorial service on the anniversary of that day, I feel very far from home. The news is still filled with remarkable stories of survival and heroism. Christchurch was given so much support from Australia, Japan, Singapore, the US, and Taiwan, including search and rescue teams, help for the NZ police, and many more offers of help from all over the world.
There have been 10,000 aftershocks since the initial earthquake in September, and I’m still in awe of the people who have managed to stay in Christchurch and keep going through it. Many people have lost their houses, people are still using portaloos in the street, and all the while suffering through one aftershock after another. I was home for Christmas when we had another large aftershock and then the smaller ones which came through the night and I can’t imagine having to live with the shakes since September 2010. I can’t describe the terror you feel as the ground starts to shake, and you wait to see if it will be a big one.
When I was home in December, I was struck by how empty everything now was. So many buildings have been demolished that it was actually hard to get my bearings and figure out what used to be there.
I am filled with pride at how far the city has come. People are slowly getting their lives back together, either leaving to start somewhere new, or sticking it out for the long haul. Christchurch has a long way to go, but it’s slowly getting back on its feet, thanks to the unbreakable kiwi spirit. Seeing how everyone helped each other out, and hearing some amazing stories of courage and generosity made me proud to be from New Zealand.
So as I sit here in San Diego, so far from my poor hometown, I try to stay positive. Christchurch is slowly getting through one of the worst disasters in New Zealands’ history. Kiwis are tough. Kia Kaha Christchurch.
“This is not an act of God, this is the Earth, doing what it does. The Act of God is is how we Love each other, how we reach out to one another” – Dean Peter Beck, Dean of the Christchurch Cathedral. (ht Geoff Duncan)