3 years on

It is interesting to ponder life and all its joys and challenges as the third anniversary of the catastrophic February 22 earthquake in Christchurch comes by.  The ‘earthquake natives’ tell their stories of where they were – they are remembered vividly.  Our family stories offer four contrasting experiences.
Anne at home with dog barking, fish tank breaking, floor flooded with flapping fish, kitchen cupboards evacuating, and crockery breaking.
Sam at work at Misceo cafe with wine bottles breaking, staff panicking and next door the sound of hundreds of wine bottles toppling and breaking – he got called to help pull a collapsed chimney off a woman… she lost her legs.  After we caught up with him he biked into the city against the flow of people, looking for Josh.
Josh over the road from his central city school in a skateboard shop (it was lunchtime) grabbing a panicked young woman and heading out of the building only to witness many of the verandahs above the footpath collapsing against the shop windows – luckily the one where he was held.  Many people died in the precinct around him because of collapsing shop canopies.  He then made his way in the dust and rubble to Latimer Square – having to run for his life during the first aftershock as brick buildings beside him began to collapse.  He walked past the CTV building where 115 people died.  Later, after having met up with Sam, they walked out of the city – past the PGG building where 18 people died.  We didn’t have telephone contact with the boys for several hours.
Me at Canterbury University in the dining room of Rochester & Rutherford Hall where I do some chaplaincy.  Stupidly I dived under a grand piano – there were plenty of sturdy tables around but I am an idiot… After calming students and witnessing a van nearly tip over in the first aftershock I made my way home to the fish carnage, news of substantial damage in the central city, no power, and the very real and prolonged fear for Josh.  It was very destabilising – especially as there was little we could do for anyone.
My ongoing involvement was with our immediate church community and the leadership with others in the regional Presbyterian community.  I remember a moment one day a week or so later when I was handling two urgent emails on different computers while answering the telephone, when I also received a mobile phone call and the front door bell sounded as someone was dropping off food for the east-side of the city.  I learned to step out of my masculine limitations over those months – I learned to multi-task!
The thing that remains with me is the amazing post-quake influx of skilled and risk-taking people, untold resources, and encouragement and prayerfulness of people from all corners of the globe.  It was and remains quite overwhelming.  We are very thankful!
The city and its people are still recovering… some things are as they always were, but many things are changed – some forever.  It is not an easy city to live in, yet.  The city is still broken and many people are having considerable problems negotiating the ongoing disruption to their lives and especially to their homes.  But humans are wonderful at adapting to the world they find themselves in.
The photographs are from the city centre on 22 February taken by Sam as he biked in looking for Josh.  A wee sign of hope is in the last photographs are of a new cafe in Sydenham where Sam and Josh are working.  It is called Hello Sunday and it formally opens this weekend.  Hello Sunday – hello resurrection day!  New things spring forth and this little cafe (and the people around it) is very special indeed.  We live on.
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