In the wake of a tragedy – the Christchurch earthquake
On Monday night I came home and saw that a friend in Christchurch had commented on facebook about another earthquake. I didn’t think much of it as they have been having ongoing aftershocks since the one in September…and I thought it must have been one of those. I woke on Tuesday to find facebook (my source of almost all world news these days) covered in posts about the earthquake and it’s impacts, people checking in with others for news, friends asking that people pray for their loved ones.
This morning the official death toll is at 98 but there are 226 listed missing and the Prime Minister John Keys has said “We are very fearful tonight that the death toll could be much greater than any of us have ever feared.” It has been NZ’s deadliest disaster in 80 years.
I spent a lot of Tuesday contacting friends who are either in Christchurch or have family there, reading articles and updates, looking at pictures and watching videos – some that were horrifying and heartbreaking. One of the most hard-hitting was this one.
How to make sense of what has happened and is happening? A couple of years ago I might have written something that would have come across as insensitive and apathetic to explain why this has happened and what will come out of it. But I am not there. I don’t know what it is like for those involved. I can’t possibly imagine. Though people I know have been affected, either through being there themselves or losing loved ones in the quake, no-one I personally know has been counted in the death toll. I don’t feel I have a right to comment on what it might be like for them. But here is what I do know for sure and do feel I have a right to comment on…..
There is absolutely NOTHING that unites us like death.
There is nothing that has the power to bring a family, a community, a country, a people together like a loss of life, particularly on such a scale.
I have been watching as Air NZ has dropped it’s prices to almost nothing to fly in or out of Christchurch those affected or immediate family members. I have seen friends post on facebook as they wait for news about their loved ones and then post again as they get the news – one way or another – and the messages of support flood in to them. Defence staff, medics, and engineers are coming from all over the country and flying in from the UK, US, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and Japan. There are sites and facebook pages where you can find/provide temporary accommodation, need/give supplies & comfort, donate, search for/find loved ones, and provide messages of support.
I was moved to tears after seeing a friend in Wellington open up her home, saying that she had two spare rooms available to ‘anyone’ who needed a place to stay. She is one of many.
At what other time do you see a nation pull together like this than in the face of such tragedy? Great strength and life emerge from something like this.
I’ll be honest that I am not sure whether I feel so relieved not to be there or if I wish I could be there to really DO something. But one thing is for sure – I feel more ‘Kiwi’ than I have in years. I feel fiercely patriotic right now and I feel so connected to MY country. It’s been a long, long time since I felt this way.
Keys has said “Things will get better. Christchurch will rise again. This country is right behind you and we are backing you with all of our might.”
And if they didn’t already know, now the world will see what Kiwis are made of.
Kia kaha, New Zealand. Aroha nui.