Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thoughts on Christchurch

This past week, many New Zealanders played witness to the worst natural disaster they have seen in their lifetime.

Few are alive that remember the Nelson earthquake, the only earthquake in New Zealand similar in destruction and loss of life. So will few recall the Tangiwai disaster, in which a lahar destroyed a rail bridge off of Mt. Ruapehu, causing the second-worst transport-related disaster in New Zealand history. The sinking of the Wahine was long before my time, and I only know of it from reading about it, as with the tragic loss of life at Mount Erebus. All these disasters now live only in textbooks, and in the memories of the generation that lived through them.

I’m not comparing or demeaning the loss of life in any of those disasters. All of them are equally tragic, and many of us would give anything for the people who died in them to have lived their lives normally.

However, I feel that the 2011 Christchurch earthquake will be our generation’s disaster in New Zealand. It’ll be the disaster that we will have the most emotional attachment to, because we were there, because we remember it.

I’m not going to go into the details of the quake itself here, mainly because there are many publications that have done a much better job than I could. However, I will share a few of my thoughts.

We’ve heard much news over the past week. We’ve heard happy stories, like the woman who protected her son from a falling air conditioning unit, or the girl who walked out of the window of the CTV building as it crumbled around her. Someone survived being crushed in a bus by talking with one of the rescuers. The woman who rushed to her husband’s workplace and waited for him until he was pulled out and ran into her arms. The pair who survived the quake and got married in the week following. The happy chances that make this bearable.

We’ve also heard stories of tragedy. The man who tried to rescue someone else in the street from a pile of bricks, only to be killed by falling debris. The woman who got her family out of a superette, only to rush back for her phone and then get crushed when the building collapsed. The baby squashed by a falling television set. The groups of exchange students who were in the CTV building at the time, of which only half have been recovered alive. These are the stories that show how co-incidence is a cruel mistress. It makes survivors wonder what could have been if only they’d been in their loved one’s place, and brings sorrow to the rest of us, as well as reminding us of the fragility of life, and that death can come from anywhere.

The probability is high that we have all met or know someone who was in Christchurch at the time of the quake.

I knew someone who used the nom-de-plume Adaminator1. He frequented a chat room I visit often, but he hasn’t visited since the day before the quake. Though I only knew him for a few months, I have to be honest – I’m frightened. I fear for his safety.

I fear for everyone’s safety.

But we must be strong. We need to help, in any way we can. Even if it’s not directly, even if we give our best wishes to those who live in Christchurch still. They need our words of comfort and support, now more than ever.

We must show Christchurch that, although they may feel it, they are not alone. We must show them they have New Zealand behind them. We must show them they have the entire world behind them.

We must stand together as one people. Whether it be in mourning, in support, in remembrance, or in guidance, we must not let Christchurch stand alone.

We must stand as one.