I remember where I was when I found out about the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch. I had headed off down to the gym in my lunchbreak and was on the treadmill. The TV’s flashed up images of buildings collapsing, people covered in dust and blood and my heart broke.
It’s very strange given that one of my clearest memories as a 5 year old (or all through primary school for that matter) was of the earthquake drills. We used to huddle under our desks, tucked up in little balls with our hands clasped behind our necks. Earthquake drills were commonplace, small earthquakes were regular, destruction on a scale that Christchurch experienced are not.
My nana passed down photos to us from the last major earthquake New Zealand experienced – Napier 1931, again also in February. Hundreds of people were killed and Napier is a shiny Art Deco memorial to remind everyone that it can be rebuilt. Nana lived in Gisborne a couple of hundred kilometres north of Napier. Still there was devastation even that far away. Buildings were flattened, cars wrecked. As much as you knew that earthquakes happened all the time, you never thought that the “big one” would happen again.
The February 22 earthquake was something that we as kiwis have always been taught to expect, but never want to see.
So it was was with a sense of disbelief and horror that I watched the situation unfold in Christchurch. I couldn’t comprehend that it had actually happened, and happened somewhere that had already been struck by 2 sizeable earthquakes in the preceding 6 months. And for Canatabrians, the fact that this is now their reality, that they have experienced over 10,000 aftershocks, and that their lives have been so adversely affected by this one day is both their greatest achievement and greatest sorrow.
I really hope that Christchurch can rebuild. Given the fact the area is still so unstable, it may take decades. But I honestly believe that Christchurch will become an iconic symbol for the whole of NZ in the years to come.
It has been interesting over the last week to read all stories from people directly affected by the earthquake, how they cope now, how they are trying to get up everyday and move on.
Much love goes out to all you Cantabrians. Stay strong.